Limiting Meat Supports Health
A new study of more than 1.5 million people suggests that regular meat consumption raises mortality risk.
There’s been an effort for some time to inspire less consumption of meat, especially fatty red meats and processed meats. Meatless Monday is one campaign that asks you to give up all meat consumption on the first day of the week. Previous studies have shown a link between regular meat consumption and health risks. In the U.S. a study of Seventh-day Adventists (many are vegetarians or consume limited amounts of meat) showed lower cancer risk. A Harvard study showed that individuals who consume meat regularly have three times the risk of colon cancer, compared to individuals who rarely eat meat.
The connection between meat consumption and elevated risk of cancer and other diseases may be due to its lack of fiber, saturated fat, and unhealthy by-products (HCAs and PAHs) produced when meat is charred during grilling. In the case of processed meat, high sodium levels and ingredients used during curing have been implicated in health risks.
This new review looked at six large-scale studies involving more than 1.5 million people that examined the effects of meat and a vegetarian diet on mortality. The goal was to offer primary care physicians evidence-based findings that could guide their dietary recommendations to patients. The result of the review indicated that physicians should recommend that patients limit consumption of animal products when possible, and consume plant-based proteins or fish in lieu of meats.
The clinical-based findings support what experts have known for some time – that diet has the potential to support your health and reduce risk of disease, or it can put you at risk of disease. The review showed the steepest rise in mortality associated with the smallest increases in total red meat consumption. The review looked at consumption of both unprocessed red meats (uncured, unsalted beef, pork, lamb and game meats) and processed meats (bacon, sausage, salami, hot dogs and ham).
A prior 2014 meta-analysis looked at associations with mortality from heart disease. In that study of more than 1.5 million people, researchers found that only processed meats significantly raised the risk of all-cause mortality.
If you combine that 2014 study findings with this new review, all of the studies are “statistically significant” in terms of their findings. A separate observation was the fact that a vegetarian diet followed for more than 17 years offered 3.6 year increase in life expectancy, compared to short-term vegetarians.
Ideas for alternative proteins:
• Nuts and nut butters
• Beans and legumes
• Soy products
• High protein pasta
• Portabella mushroom
• Fat free Greek yogurt
• High protein/low sugar cereals