Bacon rashers, statistics, and controversyBMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5989 (Published 14 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5989
- Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology1,
- Christopher Gardner, professor of medicine2
- 1King’s College London, UK
- 2Stanford University, USA
“No ifs or butties—bacon is safe to eat after all,” said the headline in the Sun. The latest summary of the available evidence on the effects of eating red meat was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the authors concluding that we have grossly overestimated the harmful effects of eating both red meat and processed meat and that we should not alter our current habits. This comes soon after a succession of other high profile reports that reached the opposite conclusion—with some suggesting that eating bacon is as dangerous as smoking. Current NHS and US guidelines say that we should modestly reduce our intake of meat to less than 70 g a day, which is equivalent to a rasher of bacon. No wonder the public is confused, not to mention the health professionals who are trying to advise them.
An important clarification here is that there are no new data being considered. The analysis is from researchers who created a stringent set of evaluation criteria that they then applied to existing studies. These criteria are well suited to studies …