Good afternoon, readers.
Let’s have a chat about meat.
I’m usually hesitant to wade into nutritional debates—they are, often, driven by sensationalist claims, cherry-picked results, poorly designed studies, and a big old dollop of confirmation bias—but there’s a pretty big one dominating the internet right now.
Specifically, a series of analyses published in the Annals of Internal Medicine find that the conventional doomsday advice about the health effects of eating red meat like pork and beef may be… a bit doomsday-ish.
The controversial findings (major health associations have already hit back hard) conclude, largely by analyzing previous studies, that reducing red meat consumption only has a marginal effect on things like cardiovascular health or cancer risk.
There are serious shortcomings to pretty much all nutritional studies. For one thing, they’re usually based on “observational” and self-reported data, rather than a randomized clinical trial. That, in and of itself, can muddy the scientific waters.
Aaron Carroll, a physician and guru on these kinds of issues, and co-author Tiffany Doherty have a fascinating take on all this in the latest Annals issue. “We have saturated the market with warnings about the dangers of red meat. It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t “know” that experts think we should all eat less. Continuing to broadcast that fact, with more and more shaky studies touting potential small relative risks, is not changing anyone’s mind,” they wrote.
What’s even more interesting is what Carroll and Doherty suggest as an alternative to get people to eat less meat—which may still be a laudable goal. “Ethical concerns about animal welfare can be important, as can concerns about the effects of meat consumption on the environment. Both of these issues might be more likely to sway people, and they have the added benefit of empirical evidence behind them. And if they result in reducing meat consumption, and some receive a small health benefit as a side effect, everyone wins,” wrote the authors.
Chew on that for a second. And read on for the day’s news.
The challenges awaiting approved gene therapies. PricewaterhouseCoopers is out with a fascinating and important new report on the state of gene therapies. As readers know, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been approving novel treatments that harness immunotherapy and reprogrammed cells in order to treat rare disorders and cancers. But, PwC says, many challenges lay ahead—especially when it comes to the complicated gene therapy manufacturing arena. “Demand for these gene therapy manufacturing services is likely to increase due to the number of active or recruiting trials. Greater competition for existing manufacturing capacity likely will result in higher costs or scarcer supplies for customers, and companies may need to make investments into manufacturing technologies – or purchases of companies for their manufacturing expertise – to ensure they are able to compete or gain an edge over other players,” write the report authors. (PwC)
THE BIG PICTURE
Juul backs off opposition to San Francisco ban. Increasingly-besieged vaping giant Juul is retreating from its opposition to San Francisco’s anti-vaping law, withdrawing support for a ballot initiative that would undo the regulation (after already pouring some $9 million into the effort). Juul’s CEO stepped down last week; here’s what the new chief had to say: “We must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate,” said K.C Crosthwaite in a statement. “That includes inviting an open dialogue, listening to others and being responsive to their concerns.” (CBS News)
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates a mental health pioneer. Tuesday’s Google Doodle pays homage to Dr. Herbert Kleber, the late addiction psychologist credited with revolutionizing how we view addiction in medicine. Kleber rejected the notion that addiction constituted a moral failure, instead highlighting the underlying biological and medical underpinnings of substance abuse. (Independent)
No, Encryption Is Not About to Be ‘Backdoored’, by Robert Hackett
How Comedy Central Grew Up to Hold Its Own Against Netflix, by Stacey Wilson Hunt
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