A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. The results also showed that substituting other healthy protein sources, such as fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes, was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
“Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies,” said lead author An Pan, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
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.
The results are impressive because the study began before the relatively recent rise in popularity in being vegetarian or even vegan. Humans are, of course, omnivores, and can obtain the daily requirement of protein from a large variety of plants. On NPR's "All Things Considered" today, hosts Melissa Block and Robert Siegel were reading emails from their listeners, who were reminding us that meat is not a necessary part of the diet. Left unsaid on NPR, but a point that I have made before, is that if we all cut back on meat (and I'm not saying that you have eliminate meat--although that would be best), we would, in fact, be in a position to feed more people, not to mention lowering the methane pollution in the environment.