PubMed Food Problem: Red Meat

By Eric Rumsey and Janna Lawrence

As we’ve discussed before, searching for “red meat” in PubMed is difficult because the subject is poorly covered in the MeSH vocabulary. Not only is there not a term for “red meat,” but there are also no MeSH terms for specific kinds of red meat (beef, pork, etc.). There is only the one all-inclusive MeSH term Meat, which includes all kinds of meat, as well as fish and poultry. So this is a rare case in PubMed in which MeSH is essentially useless. The only way to do a thorough search is to use text words that include the phrase “red meat” or that contain specific types of red meat – e.g. “red meat” OR beef OR pork… [etc]

The problem of searching for red meat has returned to our attention recently for two reasons. One is that the subject continues to be in the news. Last winter when we wrote, it was getting attention because red-meat nutrient carnitine was reported to be linked to heart disease. And recently red meat has been back in the news because it’s been reported that tick bites can trigger an allergy to red meats.

The other reason we’ve been thinking about red meat is that, coincidentally, our library has recently gotten a subscription to Embase, which a European-based medical literature database that’s the main alternative to PubMed/MEDLINE. Of course, the first thing we did with new access was to compare the indexing, and especially the explosions, in Embase to PubMed for Food-Diet-Nutrition subjects. We have found several cases in which Embase is better. One case in which it’s clearly better is red meat.

Here’s the explosion in Embase:

Red Meat
… Beef
… Lamb Meat
… Mutton
… Pork
… Rabbit Meat
… Veal
… Venison

This can’t be used directly in PubMed, of course, but at least it gives an idea of specific meats to search in PubMed as text words.