The tide is turning, friends. At least, I believe that, and I’ve witnessed a shift in our perception of meat-eating in the last six years that I’ve been vegan, since I pay attention to this sort of stuff. When I initially decided to give up meat, it was due to the increasingly bad stigma of red meat, one that was in the news a lot during 2005. Today, the evidence is clear: eating red meat is not a good idea. The most recent study from Harvard confirms this:
The researchers, including senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, and colleagues, prospectively observed 37,698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for up to 22 years and 83,644 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for up to 28 years who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at baseline. Diets were assessed through questionnaires every four years.
A combined 23,926 deaths were documented in the two studies, of which 5,910 were from CVD and 9,464 from cancer. Regular consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, was associated with increased mortality risk. One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.
Among specific causes, the corresponding increases in risk were 18% and 21% for cardiovascular mortality, and 10% and 16% for cancer mortality. These analyses took into account chronic disease risk factors such as age, body mass index, physical activity, family history of heart disease, or major cancers.
One researcher concluded that “regular consumption of red meat, especially processed red meat, contributes substantially to premature death.” I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty shocking. Who wants to die early? With the plethora of foods around us, why would anyone stick to eating the same red meat products again and again? Tradition, habit, stubbornness? I refuse to give up in the name of tradition while those around me die of heart disease – I’ve seen it too many times.
For more on the study see this great analysis by Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org, including Meat, Inc.’s criticism and Greger’s consequent rebuttals, including another gigantic study by the NIH that confirms the same thing – eating meat raises your risks of all major diseases. There’s a great video on by Greger on the page, as well.
Confused about where to turn after ditching red meat? Don’t be! Here are some great substitutes (Tofurky is my favorite) from Vegan Outreach, and a wonderful Vegetarian Starter Kit from the PCRM. If you’re in Louisville next weekend, up hit the delicious Vegetarian Tasting Fair!
Photo: Nick Castonguay