Creative use of statistics by Andrew Johnson, Cardiff

Far-fetched statistics have long been used to bolster weak arguments. Your story in the last issue (29 October) that we should eat three meat meals a week is a case in point.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Oxford Universtity researchers had analysed the health implications of various sorts of diets, including lower-meat diets, you report. FoE had then published figures saying that meat was responsible for 45,000 early deaths a year. Lower meat diets would save 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 from cancer and 5,000 from strokes, it extrapolated.

Does FoE have any figures on how many heart attacks are caused by chips? Or how many strokes could be prevented by cutting down on jam? I would like to see those.

A healthy diet involves consuming appropriate amounts of all nutrients. Meat is a rich source of nutrients, including iron and vitamins A, B and D. It also provides protein, the main building block of the body. And protein foods also provide essential amino acids that your body cannot manufacture itself. Amino acids build cells, repair tissues, and form antibodies that can combat viruses.

In contrast, highly processed, refined foods, primarily starchy carbohydrates cause many of society's health problems.

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