In 2000, A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that people were consuming at least 195 pounds of meat per year, a number that has increased since the past 50 years. So it is safe to say that America loves meat. It makes one wonder if eating so much meat is beneficial to us.
With many increases in vegan and vegetarian options, low-carb products, “healthy” processed foods and rising organic sales, it seems like everyone is trying to live a more healthier lifestyle. However, with fads like ” The paleo diet,” there is always room for improvement.
Not only is red meat being consumed more frequently, but the portion sizes have increased dramatically as well. With numbers like these its not difficult to see why there is a steady increase in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and mortality. The question is “Should we be looking at red meat (or meat consumption in general) as the cause for these problems?”
In 1980, Harvard’s School of Public Health conducted a study of men and women and the effects of red meat consumption.120,000 men and women participated, and the study was conducted over the participant’s lifetimes. During the study, 5,900 died from cardiovascular disease and 9,500 died from cancer.
The individuals that consumed more processed and unprocessed red meat had an increase of all-causes of mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
With one additional serving of unprocessed red meat, the risk of total mortality increased by 13%. Astonishingly, an extra serving of processed red meat like hot dogs, bacon, and sausage increased the risk of total mortality by 20%!
Substituting one serving a day of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains for red meat decreased the risk of mortality by 7%-19%. If participants consumed less than half of red meat (approx. 1.5 oz.) a day, then 9.3% of the male participants and 7.6% of the female participant’s deaths’ could have been prevented.
“500,000 participants who ate mostly red meat daily, were 30% more likely to die of any health cause during a 10 year period than those who ate the least red meat,” reported The National Cancer Institute Study of Meals.
Sausage, lunch meats, and other processed meats also increase the risk for mortality. Adults need to consume 10-35% of total daily Kcal from protein.This is equal to eating 50-175 grams of protein a day (based on a 2,000 Kcal diet). A Kcal, or Kilocalorie, is a unit of energy measure used in conjunction with a Calorie. One serving of protein is about 3 oz., or the size of a deck of cards. One example of a diet that limits red meat but emphasizes eating fruit, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats is the Mediterranean diet.
Consumption of red meat increases the risk for heart failure, and increases the risk of death from heart failure for men who regularly consume processed red meats. Nitrates, sodium, phosphates, and other additives may contribute to heart failure risk.
The good news is that meat consumption in the United States has decreased more than 5%. “Consume 1-2 servings a week or less of red meat,” recommends The American heart Association.
While China’s pork consumption has increased 18% from 64 million to 78 million tons. China buys more than 60% of the world’s soybeans to feed its livestock and has also purchased foreign agricultural land turning farm scale production to factory operations. In China, meat manufactures pollute, house disease, and have even been caught dumping pigs in the Shanghai River.
The effects of red meat don’t just stop with your health. The production and distribution of red meat causes severe environmental impact as well. At least 42,000 gallons of water per day are used in the standard American diet to feed and process livestock and to wash and cook meat.
Issues such as waste from concentrated animal farming operations (CAFO’s), the energy consumption, deforestation and disease all find themselves wrapped up inside of your package of ground beef or cheeseburger.
In conclusion, we have discussed the health effects of red meat and the toll of the production of red meat on our environment and health. If it is not clear by now, red meat (or meat consumption in general) is the cause for many problems we share.
Our society has an addiction to red meat, and that obsession is literally killing us.
It’s time to put down the knife and pick up the fork for a better life for ourselves, our children, and our planet.
United States Department of Agriculture
The Mayo Clinic