Hot Dogs are bad for you, definitive study asserts!

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So, Sharon Kirkey reports, via the “Ottawa Citizen” that “cancer society revises rules on red meat” stating that eating too much raises one’s risk of death. No duh?

Part of me thinks, “Yeah, so?” about this study. The data analyst side of me reads the details of the study and thinks, “Man, that’s a poor design.”To wit:

The article states, “Red meat included bacon, beef, cold cuts, ham, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork, sausage, steak and meats in foods such as pizza, chili lasagna and stew.”

The article further states, “White meat included chicken, turkey and fish, as well as poultry cold cuts, canned tuna and lowfat sausages and hot dogs made from poultry.”

So hot dogs are in both segments? Processed meats, and cold cuts, known to be chock full of sodium, chemicals, etc. are in both segments? Frankly, I haven’t the faintest clue what this study proves, but I wonder. Now, do I think eating a lot of processed meat is likely to be bad for you? Yes! This study doesn’t exactly shed new light on that belief, but I might be out of line in saying so.


A respondent writes, via e-mail:

Not only is the study a poor design as you point out, it is also meaningless as its basis of measurement is a “detailed questionnaire”…questionnaires about one’s diet are always error prone as remarkably few people remember accurately what they eat on any given day, let alone over a period of years. Furthermore, most people lie about what they actually eat, especially now that proper diet has been given a quasi-religious significance and eating poorly is equated with being morally inferior.


Writes a friend on Facebook:

It’s even worse than (the issue you raised). There is no screen for smokers (vegans smoke less than meat eaters), or diabetes, or those who exercise, etc.

Generally, the level of confounding in this study is breathtaking.

6:32 pm on March 24, 2009