Ventilator treatment for COVID-19 leads to questions of end-of-life

Now is the time to talk to your friends and family about your prospects of survival should you become deathly ill. But if you’re like me, you’d rather not start the conversation.

image: The Conversation

If you are unfortunate enough to catch the new coronavirus and are placed on a ventilator, the odds are two-to-one that you will die. And if you survive, your quality of life could be seriously compromised.

The numbers are still coming in, but they don’t look good. One review conducted in China said that 86 percent of COVID-19 patients put on ventilators eventually died. In the UK, about two-thirds of ventilated patients died.

From an optimistic perspective, you have a chance of living so why not take it?

In the most serious cases, COVID-19 takes over the respiratory system and leads to pneumonia. Your lungs fill with fluid and you can no longer capture oxygen; you begin to suffocate and are left literally gasping for air.

A ventilator seems like the obvious choice but it’s extremely invasive. You are sedated and muscle-paralyzing drugs are given -the procedure is so aggressive that you would not tolerate it otherwise. A 10-inch tube is inserted into your lungs with the hope is that the oxygen will prevent you from suffocating to death before the body’s immune system is able to rally, overwhelm the virus and return you to health. That’s the hope.

Kathryn Dreger, an internist and professor of medicine at Georgetown University, describes a common result:

“The amount of sedation needed for Covid-19 patients can cause profound complications, damaging muscles and nerves, making it hard for those who survive to walk, move or even think as well as they did before they became ill. Many spend most of their recovery time in a rehabilitation center, and older patients often never go home. They live out their days bed bound, at higher risk of recurrent infections, bed sores and trips back to the hospital.”

Given that prospect, you will have to make the agonizing decision to ventilate or not. And you will have to decide at a time when you are least able to do so, when you are very sick and perhaps not thinking clearly.

Your doctor can help you decide but it’s not a purely medical decision. These are highly personal decisions affecting your future quality of life.

As difficult as it may be, you should give advance directions regarding invasive treatments.

As I watched my wife die of breast cancer seven years ago, the need for such directions became painfully clear. She had signed a “do not resuscitate (DNR)” order. It instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if her breathing stopped or her heart stopped beating. She died without any of those interventions.

When I talked to my doctor shortly after her death about a DNR order for me, he was concerned; worried about my apparent preoccupation with imminent death when I seemed perfectly healthy.

The best chance that a DNR will be honoured is if you have talked to your doctor and family. But kids have trouble dealing with their own mortality, let alone yours.

In our culture where talk of death ends a conversation, it’s easier not to start the conversation.

I would not consider a life hooked up to tubes, or bed-ridden with recurrent infections, worth living but I procrastinate in getting a DNR order.

One day when I’m least capable making the decision, I’ll probably regret my procrastination.

 

Canada could have stopped pandemic earlier -but at what cost?

Two nations have contrasting approaches to the control of COVID-19. One uses state-control, the other appeals to the individual’s sense of citizenship.

image: Forbes

China’s approach was to seal off the source of the outbreak in Wuhan in January. It was a draconian step to halt the spread of the deadly virus but by all reports, it seems to have worked.

On January 25, 2020, a man flew to Toronto from Wuhan and became the first presumptive case of the coronavirus in Canada. Airports were such an obvious point of vulnerability. Canada could have taken similar drastic measures by sealing off airports and by doing so, halted the virus in its tracks.

However, Canadians would have never accepted such heavy-handed a tactic. Instead, passengers arriving by air were asked to self-isolate, a tactic that depended on compliance.

I can imagine how I would have felt if, after arriving back from Mexico in March, I was herded into holding facilities and subjected to forced quarantine. Instead, some nice young people handed me an information sheet and advised me to stay at home for two weeks.

Sweden is trying a different approach. That county has no lockdowns, no school closures, and no ban on going to the pub.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven is appealing to citizenship, calling this a “common sense” response to the pandemic. Rather than the heavy hand of the state in controlling the pandemic, Sweden is depending on the power of citizens do the right thing. “We who are adults need to be exactly that – adults. Not spread panic or rumours,” said Lofven. “No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility.”

Faith in Swedish common sense is admirable but it doesn’t seem to be working. While Denmark, Finland, and Norway have seen some reductions in hospitalizations pre million, Sweden is still on the rise as of April 8. Swedish public opinion regarding the tactic is divided about 50/50. The Swedish government will likely change its mind if public opinion opts for more isolation.

I suspect that the public opinion of the citizens of Wuhan matters little. The Chinese state is not moved by public opinion.

Maybe some state intervention during a health crisis might be a good thing.

While an informed citizenry is a powerful democratic tool, reliable information is becoming scarce in this fractured newsworld of “true facts.”

An ill-informed citizenry leads to a chaotic response and the spread of disease.

Take vaccinations, for example. Some parents are informed by what they are led to believe are reliable sources; sources that say vaccinations cause autism and disease. In that case, the state has stepped in some jurisdictions to impose vaccinations for the health and safety of all.

The common good has to outweigh the misguided opinions of a few.

Canada has adopted a balance of heavy-handedness and public education. We accept that schools, restaurants, and stores have been shut down. Those who disagree with the fact of the pandemic, as an expression of their liberty to think as please, face limitations of movement and social censure.

Canada falls somewhere between state-intervention and freedom of expression. Sometimes the powers of government have to be used judiciously to outweigh the whims of individualists in order to protect greater society.

 

Some think COVID19 is a hoax

The inconvenient truth of COVID-19 is that it’s going to infect millions and hundreds of thousands will die. That reality is slowing dawning on a majority of Canadian as the virus moves closer to home. However a small minority see it as a hoax, a government plot to invade our daily lives. I’ll call this group the “Illuminati faction.”

A larger minority have politicized what is a health crisis. This group votes for the Conservative Party but I’m reluctant to label them as such. Let’s call them the “political partisans.”

Four million Canadians say the whole crisis is overblown, extrapolating from a poll conducted by Angus Reid on March 30. Twelve per cent of respondents agreed that “the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in Canada is overblown.”

Two-thirds of them voted Conservative in the 2019 federal election.

Other than politics, I can think of no other reason why Conservative voters would regard a health crisis differently than anyone else. The coronavirus does not select victims based on how they vote. Regardless of what they tell pollsters, I suspect that this group is as worried as anyone else.

The official stance Conservation Party is sensible. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said: “There really isn’t much philosophical difference when it comes to fighting a virus or keeping Canadians healthy and safe (CP, March 22, 2020).”

The motive of the political partisans seems obvious. They are reluctant to give the prime minister any kind of advantage. During a health crisis the prime minister appears statesman-like.

That bump in popularity has certainly worked for Prime Minister Trudeau and to slightly lesser extent for U.S. President Trump. Two-thirds of Canadians think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doing a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some provincial leaders have seen even more of a bump. The highest score came for Premier François Legault of Quebec with an approval rating of 93 per cent.

However, the Illuminati faction has more of a populist inclination. They distrust anything that the Mainstream Media (MSM) has to offer which they regard as fake news. The truth is revealed through the blogosphere.

I found two examples of the Illuminati faction on the Facebook page of a Kamloops user.

Henry Makow is the author of Illuminati: The Cult that Hijacked the World. On his website he proposes that governments are part of a sinister plot. His April 3 post warns:

“Flu Psyop — Pretext to Impose Orwellian Dictatorship?” ‘The Depression [resulting from the pandemic] will deepen and an oppressive political regime will be instituted.” “Their goal is take away our freedoms. Then if we want them back, we’ll be forced to receive vaccines to gain a digital certificate of movement which allows us to be tracked on 5G control grids.”

And a YouTube video with 508,068 views as of March 31, 2020, is titled “CoronaHoax Pandemic Proven Fake… Yet The Lockdowns Continue… Here’s Why.”

Like climate change deniers, COVID-19 deniers would prefer to believe some guy blogging from his basement. Unlike climate change, the effects of the virus are not glacial –they are immediate and deadly. And when not deadly, it’s extremely painful with possible permanent damage to the lungs.

Who says irony is dead?

Coronavirus as news

The coronavirus pandemic is a fact. It is also news.

The difference between facts and “the news” is that facts don’t always become news, not because those facts aren’t consequential but because the news is by its very nature entertaining.

Image: Daily Express

We demand a steady feed of novelty and stimulation from the news.

There are facts that are significant but not necessarily reported. For example, look at all the news that was reported before COVID-19 replaced it. Where did it go?

While COVID-19 rightfully overrides everything else, it puts consumers who see “the news” as entertainment in the position of comparing the life-threatening fact of COVID-19 with all the news that has gone before. Is it more of the same?

On slow-news days, inconsequential facts make the news. Politicians cut ribbons and produce news releases. Reporters and pundits create another layer of news further removed from the facts by analyzing what the politicians say and do. The news is a business that must be produced every day, hour and minute. It’s about the careers of politicians, journalists and columnists.

The news industry offers a sensational diet of unsettling events because we demand it. Media theorist and cultural critic Neil Postman says:

“That is why even on news shows which provide us daily with fragments of tragedy and barbarism, we are urged by the newscasters to ‘join them tomorrow.’ What for? One would think that several minutes of murder and mayhem would suffice as material for a month of sleepless nights. We accept the newscasters’ invitation because we know that the ‘news’ is not to be taken seriously, that it is all in fun, so to say.”

Opinion is becoming the nature of the news as opposed to facts. This gives the impression that all news is opinion. If we are told to stay home to stop the pandemic, that’s just one opinion. In balanced reporting, the opposite opinion is valid: go out and enjoy the lovely spring weather.

Opinions shouldn’t be confused with facts. What I write is part of the news industry but I don’t pretend that it’s a balanced presentation of the facts. I’m trying to make a point.

What makes news about the coronavirus so jarring is that it is not the murder and mayhem of the usual variety but an existential threat. I could catch it and die.

And what about those who see the news as opinion, interpretation of facts, or infotainment?  What are they to make of the news? Possibly this:

Like all news it’s meant for my amusement, of no consequence. I’m not sick and no one I know is. I’ll carry on as usual because everyone knows that the news is sensational and overblown.

As for me, I’ll hunker down in self isolation after arriving back from Mexico. After that I’ll socially distance myself. I’ll go for an occasional walk in the hills of Westsyde where I won’t encounter anyone.

As for you, I suggest the same. But that’s just my opinion. For the facts, turn to reliable news sources. Your life could depend on it.

Coronavirus tests Canada’s character

Canadians are seen as “nice” people, sensible, proud of Canada but not jingoistic, modest, not fanatically religious. The way we respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic will further define who we are.

Nice Canadian

The response to the pandemic in the U.S. has been politicized, similar to the response to climate change, with President Trump initially calling COVID-19 a hoax cooked up by his political opponents. Apparently some Republicans are following Trump’s initial lead and not socially isolating themselves by going to bars.

Canada can be an oasis of calm amid the global coronavirus freak-out. Political leaders can instil a sense of calm and confidence. One of those is Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer. She has become the face of Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadians are rising to the challenge of a worsening novel coronavirus outbreak, going out of their way to be kind. Jason Dudas of Kamloops posted on Facebook:

“A co-worker told me about an elderly woman collapsing at a North Shore grocery store this weekend. If you are in a lower risk group and can help out elderly people you know with shopping you will be helping with keeping them safe at home, using extra sanitary precautions around them. If high risk groups don’t change their behaviour we will have a serious run on our health care system. But if we all work together then can make it through this situation.”

Kyle Ashley in Toronto posted a sign in the lobby of his downtown building offering to provide whatever assistance he could. “It’s like a war,” Ashley said, referring to the pandemic. “We will have bad actors, but good will come out.”

I have just returned from Mexico and will to self-isolate for two weeks. Neighbours have offered to buy groceries for me. It’s going to be tough to cut off contact with others, not going for coffee or to meetings at the society where I volunteer.  Social isolation is important, especially for travelers returning to Canada who have gone through busy airports. It’s voluntary but it’s the right thing to do; the only way to “flatten the curve” and slow down the spread which could potentially affect more than half of Canadians.

This isn’t panic, it’s just good citizenship under adverse social conditions.

Universal healthcare defines how we care for each other. Healthcare puts the common good above that of individual desire. Responsible Canadians will weigh what they individually want and what is in the public good. Canadian professor of philosophy Mark Gerald Kingwell says:

“Politics is a series of bargains between individual desire and collective good. What always remains is the goal of robust public trust. Community health is a shared good, just like education, transit infrastructure and building standards. It’s a concept that people against vaccines, flu-shot refuseniks, and turnstile jumpers everywhere just don’t seem to grasp (Goble and Mail, March 12, 2020).”

Herd mentality is not in the common good. Canadian’s response to COVID-19 will demonstrate our steely resolve in the face of adversity. We can hold our heads high with pride in the measures we take to stop the spread of this pandemic.

 

Coronavirus gives the virus family a bad name

Most viruses are benign and some are even lifesaving. Only a few cause panic and fear.

Bacteriophage, Image from Bacteriophage.news

We are literally immersed in viruses. A UBC professor has discovered that billions of them rain down on us daily. Curtis Suttle, co-author of the study found their source. He was initially puzzled as to why the same viruses are found everywhere on Earth.

“We found the same viruses pretty much everywhere in the planet,” Suttle told CBC radio’s Quirks & Quarks. “We would find the same viruses in a meltwater pond in the Arctic Ocean, or in the Gulf of Mexico, or in a lake in Germany. It was puzzling to use because we wouldn’t expect the same host organisms to exist in all those different environments (December 28, 2018).”

He found that the viruses are swept up from deserts and oceans and carried aloft to altitudes of 3,000 metres where they cross continents and rain down upon the earth in a microbial deluge, largely unseen and unnoticed by humans.

Suttle and his colleagues found that more than 800 million viruses per square metre are deposited into the atmosphere every day. Before his study was released, it was thought that this area of the atmosphere was pristine.

If you like to swim in the ocean, as I do, you might find the following a little unsettling. The average concentration of viruses in seawater is billions in every millilitre of water. “So for every time you go swimming, just for the water you take into your mouth, you swallow more viruses than there are people in North America,” said Suttle.

But be assured that the billions of viruses are doing good work there. They kill 40 per cent of the oceans bacteria daily. Yes, almost one-half of the bacteria are eliminated which controls their population and keeps the Earth’s oxygen from being depleted.

And the viruses you breathe in kill some of the bacteria that you also inhale.

This ability of viruses to kill bacteria is a lifesaver for people who have become resistant to antibiotics. The viruses are called bacteriophages, or phages for short.

The number of patients who are multidrug-resistant (MDR) is growing as infections become resistant to antibiotics. MDR infections are rapidly growing into public health nightmare. At least 700,000 people die annually and the United Nations predict that the numbers could rise to 10 million by 2050 (Scientific American, November, 2019).

Where antibiotics also kill useful bacteria in a shotgun approach, phages target specific bacteria. They attach to the cell wall of the bacteria and insert their genetic material into the cell through a syringe-like appendage. The phage then highjacks the bacteria’s reproductive machinery and making multiple copies of itself, ripping the bacteria apart.

The bacteria-fighting properties of phages have been known since 1910 where they reportedly reduced wartime mortality from gangrene. But after antibiotics became the drug of choice, investigation of phages waned.

Don’t go to your doctor looking for phage medications. Lack of research has limited their use but as the number of MDR cases rises, research will accelerate.

So, don’t tar all viruses with the Coronavirus brush. Their life-saving applications will almost certainly grow, saving more lives than they kill.

Kamloops needs a homeless sleep centre

Kamloops agencies care for the spiritual and physical needs of our homeless: faith, food, warmth in the winter, air conditioning in the summer.

credit :SeanShot. Getty Images

However, there is no place to get a decent sleep.

Accommodating the sleep needs of the homeless is often regarded as a “nice to have” feature. But sleeplessness can reduce the immune system, put people at greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The homeless are disproportionately affected. Almost one half suffer from insomnia.

Sleeplessness affects more than the physical health of the homeless. They already suffer from anxiety because of their precarious lifestyle. Mental illness further compounds anxiety. Sleeplessness adds to that.

Insufficient sleep impairs the mind, hampering decision making, memory, and mood. A recent study found that adults who stayed awake for just one twenty-four-hour period had an anxiety response 30 percent stronger than others who were allowed to sleep (Walrus, December, 2019).

Shelter staff and volunteers experience first-hand the frustration and aggression of the homeless resulting from exhaustion. Shelters are not designed to provide long, flexible hours of sleep.

Sleeping on park benches, doorways, and bus shelters is frowned on. Municipalities install “hostile” architectural elements, such as tilted benches and street spikes, which are intentionally designed to prevent people from lying down.

Social stigma and aggression from passersby can worsen the situation for anyone trying to find rest in a bus shelter or on a park bench.

I find public sleeping disturbing, except in certain circumstances such as at the beach or on a blanket in a park where a picnic is obvious. When I see someone sleeping on a sidewalk, I have mixed feelings of sympathy and offense at the encounter of an unconscious body.

Social norms determine when, where, and with whom people should sleep. Those norms are spelled out in shelter rules, loitering regulations, and policing practice. That leaves street people socially ostracized.

Street people often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to get some sleep. But alcohol and drugs operate in a negative feedback loop. They provide the illusion of inducing rest but actually disturb sleep, leaving people more tired, more likely to feel pain, and more inclined to self-medicate.

Restaurants have varying policies regarding sleeping. The ones that I go to on the (North) Shore allow sleeping. I won’t name them because I don’t want to infer official policy. I often see a transient young person with their head down on the table, asleep. Somehow, I feel more protective of young people so obviously sleep deprived –perhaps for the same reason I feel protective of children or because I, too, have hitchhiked globally and experienced “rough sleeping,” as the Brits put it.

A good sleep for the homeless is not a trivial problem. The median cost of each homeless person to Canadian society is $55,000 per year and half of that goes to health care, more to policing and social services. In Kamloops, that amounts to $10 million for the approximate 180 homeless people here.

A good night’s sleep for the homeless would cut health and policing costs, reduce the wear-and-tear on shelter staff and volunteers, remove disturbing bodies from our streets and give the homeless what we all wish for ourselves –peaceful slumber.

One time, Standard Time

B.C. Premier Horgan has a good idea in getting rid of the semi-annual upset of our biological rhythms by switching clocks back and forth. Horgan has a bad idea in proposing that we should be on Daylight Savings Time year-around.

image: RASC Calgary Centre

Standard Time is closer to our biological clocks. The argument in favour of permanent DST is that it’s lighter in the evening. Sure, that may be true in the summer when there are plenty of hours in the day. But in winter, it means one less hour of sunshine in the morning.

I hate getting up in the dark to go for my morning walk and deliver my newspapers. But there’s more to it than convenience.  On Standard Time, my body is more aligned with nature.

Standard Time is closer to body time.  At solar noon, that’s when the sun is highest in the sky. Time zones are wide, which means there is only one place on the map where the clock aligns with solar time.

Chronobiologists refer to the time on the clock time as “social clock” time because people in an area defined by political boundaries, such as provinces, all agree on what time it is.

In Kamloops, when we are on Standard Time, noon actually occurs at a solar time of 11:45am. When we are on Daylight Savings Time, noon occurs at 12:45pm. In other words, our body time is off by only 15 minutes when on Standard Time but 45 minutes off when on Daylight Savings Time.

It’s not just a matter of being able to see in winter mornings; Standard Time is healthier. Professors Nicolas Cermakian, Patricia Lakin-Thomas, and Tami Martino write on behalf of the Canadian Society for Chronobiology:

“But importantly, it’s the light in the morning that is most important in resetting our biological clocks (Globe and Mail, November 2, 2012).”

Chronobiologists study biological timing. When our body clocks don’t match the social clock, it’s like “social jet lag,” just like the jet lag you experience when you fly across time zones and find yourself out of sync with the new local time.  Social jet lag can cause many problems including disrupted sleep, increased risk of accidents, lower productivity at work and in school, and increased risk of negative health impacts. Permanent Standard Time would move body time closer to social time while Daylight Savings Time would move it further away.

Chronobiologists find that even differences in a time zone can affect health. If the sun rises in the eastern edge of a time zone where the body time and the social time are about the same, people in the western edge are rising as much as an hour earlier than body time. Professor Cermakian and the other Chronobiologists say:

“Analysis of health data from millions of people shows that people on the western edges of time zones get about 19 minutes less sleep every night than people on the east, and also have significantly higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart attacks than people on the eastern edges. Even scarier, cancer rates significantly increase when the sunrise is later on the western edges.”

Establishing a permanent time is not a trivial matter. Think carefully, Premier Horgan.

 

Baby boomers’ long term care goes bust

The long term care of boomers is an unfunded liability. Unlike the Canadian Pension Plan and Old Age Security, the long term care of boomers is not funded at all. Our health care is not prepared to receive their numbers.

image: genx67.com

Other countries with similar long-term care pressures, such as Germany and Japan, have established various forms of public long-term care insurance. Not in Canada.

As it now stands, long-term care falls on the shoulders of family members who provide for 75 per cent of home-care for older Canadians, unpaid. Canadians typically don’t see the gaps in the current publicly-funded care programs until they or a family member falls through them.

Research from the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University shows that if Canada continues on its current track, the cost of publicly funded long-term care for seniors – including nursing homes and home care – is expected to more than triple in 30 years, rising from $22-billion to $71-billion, in today’s dollars. Authors of the research, Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald and Michael Wolfson, warn:

“There is no special fund or program to cover the costs of long-term care in Canada. And it is not covered under the Canada Health Act in the same way as physician and hospital care (Globe and Mail, October 8, 2019).”

Canadians are dreaming if they think that our health care system can deal with the onslaught of boomers that will be falling into long term care. Hospitals are now struggling to place seniors in long-term care facilities and the wave of boomers hasn’t even hit yet.

Private long-term care insurance is available but expensive because of the low number of people buying it. It hasn’t worked here in Canada and is unlikely to work in the future.

Private long-term residences are having trouble staffing. In Kamloops, Berwick on the Park’s supportive living unit will close next year leaving 20 residents without round-the-clock care, despite the fact that residents pay $5,000/month for the service. The director of Berwick wrote to residents:

“There are significant challenges to retain healthcare staff in the current labor environment. An extraordinary amount of energy has been directed at recruitment and onboarding staff to meet the obligations to successfully operate our licensed care unit. The forward looking labor forecast indicates that these challenges will continue for the foreseeable future (Kamloops This Week, October 10, 2010)”

Even if private long-term care were available, many boomers couldn’t afford it. Debt among seniors is increasing according to Stats Canada. In 2016, the proportion of senior families with consumer and mortgage debt doubled since 1999.

Boomers have led privileged lives. They grew up during a period of increasing affluence due in part to widespread post-war government subsidies in housing and education. Baby boomers were more active and more physically fit than any preceding generation and were the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. While they have accumulated wealth, many boomers have lived beyond their means.

Boomers’ optimism for a better world is going to be severely tested as they age.

Canada needs to establish a new long-term social insurance program.  Given that health care is controlled by provinces, a patchwork system will be the likelihood as boomers totter into old age.

The current rickety long-term care system is not prepared for the wave of boomers.

 

 

Meat is bad for you. Wait, it’s OK

Contrary to decades of work, researchers from Dalhousie and McMaster Universities recently found that red meat, including bacon, is not harmful. It wasn’t a new study but rather a “study of studies,” a meta-analysis of existing studies.

image: Foreman Grill Recipes

It was a perfectly flawed study. Perfect because it offered a veneer of the scientific method; flawed because of what it didn’t include.

It didn’t include studies that found the opposite of their conclusion. Those well-researched studies found a link between meat consumption and coronary heart disease, heart attack, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality. That’s quite an exclusion.

As well, the researcher’s conclusions were contrary to those of the World Health Organization, the Canadian Cancer Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the American Heart Association. Their findings also diverged from Canada’s new Food Guide which suggests eating less animal protein.

Why did the researchers not include studies that concluded the opposite of their report? They weren’t funded by the cattle or pork industry. The reason that they didn’t include the studies was technical. The self-selected 14 member panel decided that these findings were not of sufficient quality.

What they did include is suspect. For example, they included one trial that dominated their analysis; a trial involved almost 49,000 women. But that trial was designed to examine dietary fat intake, not meat intake says nutritionist Leslie Beck (Globe and Mail, October 2, 2019).  It seems to me that a study purporting to investigate the relationship between meat consumption and health shouldn’t include fat consumption.

And the researcher’s findings were flawed in another way. They did not distinguish between the consumption of red meat and processed meat, despite evidence that processed meat such as bacon is more harmful.

It’s not surprising that their study should come to the conclusion that it did. Obviously, what’s included will determine the outcome.

The researchers at Dalhousie and McMaster Universities were exhaustive in a peculiar way. They were exhaustive in the number of findings: they conducted not just one review but five.

Three of the reviews analyzed more than 100 observational studies involving more than six million participants. These types of studies link associations between consumption and health by following people for decades to see if participants who became ill or died.

Another of the five reviews analyzed randomized controlled trials, studies that show cause and effect of eating more or less red meat.

The researchers were thorough enough to appear scientific but blind in excluding accepted knowledge. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

The authors acknowledged their lack of confidence in their data. They conceded that their recommendation was weak but judging by the headlines they received, you wouldn’t know it.

Finally, studies on groups of people don’t necessarily predict outcomes for individuals. Leslie Beck says:

“A large body of evidence suggests that a high intake of red and processed meat increases the risk of ill health. I acknowledge that the risk on an individual level may be small, and that it’s your overall diet that matters most when it comes to health, not one food.”