A group of leading academics - three of whom are Irish - have queried the veracity of the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report.

Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) chief executive, Ian Stevenson has welcomed the recent publication of the academics' letter by ‘The Lancet’ journal.

It questions the transparency of the analysis used in arriving at the results and conclusions arrived at in the 2019 GBD study.

The letter was drawn up by a group of leading scientists including: Prof. Patrick Wall, from University College Dublin (UCD); Prof. Chris Elliot, from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB); Prof. Alice Stanton from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Prof. Frederic Leroy, from Vrije University in Belgium.

All have been extremely vocal over recent months regarding their concerns about the global 896,000 deaths directly attributed to diets high in red meat consumption in the GBD 2019 study.

This represents a 3,500% increase in comparable deaths relative to the 25,000-mortality figure contained within the 2017 version of the same study.

Ian Stevenson commented: “A lot of eyebrows were raised within the academic community when the 2019 GBD was initially published.

“But more than that, many renowned experts in the field of medical research were deeply puzzled at the non-disclosure of the primary research sources, from which the collaborators behind the 2019 study had drawn their conclusions.

“There was also a high degree of concern to the effect that the analytical procedures used to arrive at the conclusions published in 2019 had been changed, relative to the work carried out two years earlier, and that agreed best practice guidelines had not been adhered to.”

Prof. Leroy spoke at the City Meat Lecture in London prior to Christmas last year. At that time he expressed his deep unease at the findings contained within the 2019 GBD study.

Ian Stevenson added: “Prof. Leroy was clearly expressing the concerns he and other colleagues had at that time.

“The recent publication of the jointly written letter by The Lancet is a major step forward in bringing balance to an issue that gets to the very heart of what constitutes good and balanced human nutrition.

“The red meat sector is simply looking for fair and unbiased commentary from academics in a debate that continues to gather momentum across media outlets and in people's homes around the world.”

Queries about Global Burden of Disease Report

The letter submitted to The Lancet by the six academics makes a number of fundamental points. However, its conclusion is of deep significance.

"Unless, and until, all new or updated reviews and meta-analyses pertaining to all dietary risk factors are published, having undergone comprehensive independent peer review, we think it would be highly inappropriate and imprudent for the GBD 2019 dietary risk estimates to be used in any national or international policy documents, nor in any regulatory nor legislative decisions."

“It is vitally important that national governments and those international bodies charged with the responsibility of developing human health and nutrition policies for populations around the world, receive clear and transparent advice from scientific advisors," Stevenson continued.

“It is now obvious that the GBD 2019 study fails to meet this threshold and should be recognised as such.

“The six academics who came together to submit the letter to The Lancet are to be commended for the step they have taken. It will be interesting to see how those who produced the GBD study for 2019 now respond.”

The LMC’s chief executive argues that red meat has so much to offer people of all ages.

He claims that from a nutritional perspective it supplies a host of essential nutrients and from a health perspective, the bioactive compounds in red meat have actions in the body that promote good health.

"It is important that these undeniable facts are always referenced when the role of beef and lamb in the diet is discussed," he stated.

“Here in Northern Ireland LMC has a very strong track record in making sure that local consumers are made very aware of the tremendous benefits that home-produced beef and lamb can bring from a dietary point of view.

“And this work will continue. Livestock farmers should be reassured that the public response to the various promotional campaigns developed by the commission is extremely positive.

“One of the tremendous benefits of living in the digital age is the ease with which public acknowledgement of messages reaching them can be quantified."