This news story is written by Julia Belluz on American news and opinion website, Vox. It focuses on recently published research in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which is quite reputable with an impact factor of 19.315 (2018). The research argues against the World Health Organization statement from four years ago that people should reduce consumption of processed meats if they want to avoid certain types of cancer. Instead, they conclude that people can continue their consumption of both processed and unprocessed meat because the impact of cutting back is either nonexistent or small. The author accurately depicts the story presented by the research in favour of meat consumption and provides multiple perspectives, and then provides contrasting perspectives to illuminate the limitations in their research. The author does not take the side of either perspective, but instead tries to put the research in context with current beliefs and multiple perspectives on whether or not the consumption of beef is healthy. Thus, I believe that this is a very high-quality news story and credible. There is no bias, simply a telling of facts, comparison of perspectives, and transparent links to all sources.
While the author did a great job in providing accurate details from the articles and not using an extreme language, the title could be considered a clickbait. The general consensus of meat consumption, and especially processed meats, is that it is unhealthy. Therefore, having “Is eating beef healthy?” in the title defies conventions and may compel the reader to click on the news story to find the answer to the question.
What differentiated this article from other that I have evaluated is the presence of author social media, email, biography, and their other articles. The opportunity to check the qualifications of the author and contact them for questions could be helpful to other readers. As well, many opinions and sources were stated, all of which were linked and accessible. The main con was the frequency of advertisements throughout the article, but they did not inhibit reading and were not too flashy. As well, while the journal was linked, because the research came from five systematic reviews, the link was not direct to the five articles. Instead, it redirects you to the “Latest” page on the journal page, so you would have to go to the October 1, 2019 section in order to find the reviews.
The news article covers a recent advancement in the ongoing debate on whether or not processed and unprocessed beef should be included in a healthy diet. Bradley Johnston, an epidemiologist from Dalhousie University, leads a group of researchers whose evidence suggests that it should. The research team took a unique approach to this problem, only looking at studies involving the health effects of processed and unprocessed red meat. They used a special research-rating system, GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) to decide exactly which studies they wanted to include in their papers. GRADE is a way for reviewers to base their conclusions only on the most certain evidence that is available.
The conclusions the researchers made contrast many other scientists’ opinions. They found that there was little to no benefit at all on cutting back on meat. Any benefit would be so small that it would be deemed as unreliable. This sparked controversy among other scientists, some going as far as claiming the research to be not applicable to lifestyle, and others worried about the impacts of red meat consumption on the climate.
The article includes multiple perspectives from credited sources. Other scientists give their opinions not only on the evidence that was chosen for the paper, but also the method used to obtain the evidence (the GRADE system).
There is no bias present in the article. The author presents the findings from the Dalhousie study, and uses additional, credited sources to state what they believe are pros and cons to the research, covering “both sides of the story”.
The language used is understandable to the general public and any scientific terms or programs (ie. GRADE) are defined in a way that makes them easy to understand. Examples are also given of each level of the GRADE system, so the reader can have an idea of what each level of evidence certainty looks like. Proper punctuation and grammar are used.
Overall, the article is very accessible to the general public. The link to the reviews conducted by the researchers and the journal itself are included in the very first paragraph of the article. The author’s contact information in the form of email and social media (Twitter, Facebook) are also provided as well as a biography upon clicking the name. This is where the author’s other works are located.
Zeraatkar D, Johnston BC, Bartoszko J, et al. Effect of Lower Versus Higher Red Meat Intake on Cardiometabolic and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:721–731. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019]. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-0622
Valli C, Rabassa M, Johnston BC, et al, for the NutriRECS Working Group. Health-Related Values and Preferences Regarding Meat Consumption: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:742–755. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019]. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-1326
Vernooij RW, Zeraatkar D, Han MA, et al. Patterns of Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk for Cardiometabolic and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:732–741. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019]. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-1583
Zeraatkar D, Han MA, Guyatt GH, et al. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk for All-Cause Mortality and Cardiometabolic Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:703–710. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019]. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-0655
Han MA, Zeraatkar D, Guyatt GH, et al. Reduction of Red and Processed Meat Intake and Cancer Mortality and Incidence: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:711–720. [Epub ahead of print 1 October 2019]. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-0699
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