Red meat and death: Were our ancestor so smart?

A fascinating study published recently is definitely worth a read in this day of low carb high-fat diet trends.  The study followed over half a million Americans aged 58 to 71 years, for 16 years.  That is a huge sample size so worth taking very seriously.  Many of the participants were dead by the end of the study; bad for them but helpful for research on death and stuff.

Here is what the research showed:

Red meat linked to death and other horrible stuff.

Yes – red meat consumption is linked to death and stuff, lots of different types of death and stuff.  Or put in science speak: those that ate more red meat had higher death rates by almost all causes than those who ate less red meat.

Going free-range/grass-fed isn’t going to save you.

The findings were similar for red meat and processed meat.  Ouch.  However, maybe because processed meat has been so demonized in recent decades the consumption of it might have dropped which could blur these findings.

What sort of death and stuff exactly is linked to red meat?

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, liver disease, respiratory disease (quite the resume).  Interestingly liver disease was the highest.  This surprised the researchers too.  After all, red meat usually gets its bad press in relation to cancer and heart disease.

Is there any death and stuff you might be saved from if I eat red meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Yes, meat lovers appear less likely to die of Alzheimers.  However, this might be a red herring as Alzheimers has a tendency itself to change diet.  Hard to keep to your usual diet if you don’t know what you normally eat or what time of the day it is or if you become institutionalized.

Is it really the red meat or something else?

Well maybe.  This kind of study is what is cause correlational.  That is – it shows these things are linked, but this kind of statistical approach cannot prove one thing ’causes’ another.  It may be that it does (let’s face it – it probably is) but this particular study can’t support that assumption.

The researchers did also explore other factors and found that serious meat eaters did not tend to be pissheads and actually ate a lot of vegetables.  Get this too for interesting: the lower meat eaters were the higher smokers.

This all means that it is unlikely that the link is spurious – as in caused by other factors not taken into consideration.  Like when you notice height and maths ability are related in children, you know height does not improve maths ability because a third factor – age is more likely to be behind this.

Is white meat our saviour?

Maybe, the white meat eaters had less death and stuff.  But whether that is the active consumption of white meat or an associated lower consumption of red meat is unknown.  Even processed white meat may be OK, but there isn’t really the data to confirm.

What about Pigs?

Sorry to say for pig lovers – pork is classified as red meat.

If red meat is the devil – why might this be so?

The researchers propose a number of potential ways that red meat and death and other horrible stuff could be linked.  Two likely suspects are oxidative stress (which is potentially part of the aging process and red meat promotes oxidative damage and inflammation) and known mutagens (ouch they sound terrifying) in red meat.

How do we know people didn’t lie or forget?

As the questions asked about typical consumption yes forgetting or fudging answers is a legitimate concern.  To address this concern, the researchers validated certain sub-samples getting them to write down what they ate daily, then they adjusted for errors across the larger sample.  The approach they took was conservative. As in, if anything, red meat is linked to more death and stuff than they reported.

Links / Resources

Too busy to read about it – bored by my summary?  It was discussed by the fabulous Dr Norman Swan on the health report on Australia’s RN Radio.  Here is a link to the show:

The research is here:


How emotions are made

This post covers The Book: “How Emotions are made”. By Lisa Feldman Barret. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcout (2017).

Why should you care how your emotions are made?

Let me ask you this: how often do you feel a victim of your emotions? or someone else’s? Conversely, how often do you feel fully in charge of your emotions?

Once upon a time

Many moons ago (around 24,000), ideas of how emotions develop started to form.  Ideas which are still the basis of much of today’s science, as well as day-to-day life such as sesame street and common approaches to therapy.

These ideas form the ‘classical view’ of emotions and go like this: we all have an innate/inborn understanding of emotions. In addition, we all express them in similar ways; in our faces and within our bodies … like our heart rate, hormones, and other stuff.  It is as if we have a mental and physiological ‘fingerprints’ of certain emotions.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  It feels like how I intuitively understand emotions.

But wait…there’s more…

Lisa Feldman Barret is bravely proposing a totally new theory of emotions, she calls it the constructed view of emotions.

Like it says on the tin – the idea is we construct emotions, moment-to-moment, based on our personal history and the cues we see in the environment and in our bodies.  The best example the book offered was a picture of a woman, close up, screaming in terror.  It was terrifying.  Turn the page and there is a wider view of one of the Williams (tennis) sisters having just beaten the other and the emotion is utter joy plus in the rush of victory.

If Feldman Baret is right, it does not seem very dramatic, does it?  Who cares too much really? Actually, it could change how we do research as well as how therapists do therapy and even how writers write children’s shows.  So this thing could be something amazing.

Scientists do self-help too

One of the big traumas of me becoming a scientist is that many of my gurus, lifestyle preferences and personal development books have been ripped from under me: spoiled with the scientific truths.  That Barret gets to some science-based personal development tips (after many pages of science) is thrilling.

Hence I completely devour Barret’s tips: enjoy touch – get a massage, do yoga, surround yourself with quiet and greenery, enjoy a good book, have a regular lunch date with a friend, take it in turns to shout.

Ok (I hear you say) I can get that from any ‘health’ magazine or Pinterest board.

But what there is more: try new stuff – take trips, try new clothing, try new perspectives (like they are new clothes), learn new words, and develop your emotional granularity.

You’ll have to read the book to fully understand emotional granularity.  I will say: it is helpful to try and describe your feelings in a way that captures them better than ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’ …. what about “the thrill and apprehension of apply lipstick before a second date”?

Hard Science Meets Pop Psych.

So there it is, hard scientists can offer up interesting enough stuff that one can enjoy it over a glass of wine.

It is time to embrace your very own “50 shades of feeling crappy/happy” …. I strongly recommend beginning with this book.

Let me know what you think.

Yours as ever,

Dr Rachel

Wellbeing: The Catch is You!

The problem with most home or work-based wellbeing programs is people. Yep. People. People get in the way of themselves.  Time and time again.  Oh and again.

This brings us to another topic I follow i.e. habit change.  Mastering your habits is fundamental in maintaining your wellbeing.

Even threat of death might not work

Guess how many people are not taking the medications that will very likely save their life, six months after a heart attack?  Fifty percent.  Yes.  You read that right.  One in two people do swallow the pills that will (probably) save their lives.

Just imagine what the statistics are for difficult wellbeing habits e.g. exercising and eating right.


What to do? What to do?

You can start with my 8 tips to get control of your habits.

But wait there is more, consider also:

  • Riding the wave: of enthusiasm that is.  Starting with a big bang and lots of activity might just help push you through your first slump.
  • Pick a good day to start.  Pick a fresh start day, the start of the week, a birthday, the beginning of a month.

More science is coming!

I am excited to say that 50 scientists have teamed up with a gym to offer free programs and collect data to learn more about the science of habits.  I am sorry to say it’s in America.  If you are reading from there check it out.   If not, one of the related links had this tool that worked for me in New Zealand.  Apparently, I am starting exercising tomorrow.

What next? What more?

With my passion for wellbeing at work – the question on my mind now is: how well are wellbeing programs building in serious support for habit change?

Links, References and all that Jazz



The Journey Begins!

My chosen template for my website offered me this blog title as a starter to ten.  I thought why not?

This having a website that is the launch of “brand-me” is new and not altogether comfortable.  I have resisted this move as it feels a little bit ‘look-at-me, look-at-me’, oh-by-the-way that’s doctor to you.

You see, despite appearing talkative, social and confident – I am not someone that wants to be looked, either online or in real life.  I remember a friend not wanting a wedding as she did not want to be looked at.  I thought it odd at the time as I was more than happy to be looked at twenty years ago.  Aging has paradoxically left me with less desire to be looked at but more comfortable in who I am.

However here I am setting up a website that is allaboutme dot com.  So perhaps I will explain myself, to both of us.  I want to continue to do the work I love (helping people and organizations be their best) and I realize it is only fair to let potential clients get to know me a little – especially given how much my work allows me into the lives of others.

Also, I realized that I prefer to work with someone who I can get a glimpse of the real them.  In choosing my own marketing coach, I chose the women I could check out via her online profile and stories.  Working with her for a few months now, her real-life persona is surprisingly similar to her online one.  So here I am following in her footsteps.  My role as a coach often involves people moving out of the comfort zone, so again it is only fair that I am pushed out of mine in the process.

So here we both are.  Thank you for joining me.  I look forward (a little nervously) to seeing where we both go on this journey.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton