Meat & public health

A growing body of literature links meat consumption to an increased risk of health issues

Meat consumption has been linked to a number of diseases by scientific research.

Here are some of the key studies:

In 2016, the Mayo Clinic published a review of large-scale studies involving more than 1.5 million people that found higher mortality rates for those who eat meat, particularly red or processed meat, on a daily basis.

The authors recommended that “physicians should encourage patients to limit animal products when possible, and substitute red meat and processed red meat with plant-based foods.”

In 2017, a study published in the British Medical Journal found “increased risks of all cause mortality and death due to nine different causes associated with both processed and unprocessed red meat…”.

The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research have stated: “There is strong evidence that consumption of either red or processed meat are both causes of colorectal cancer.”

In 2015, The World Health Organization classified the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.”

In 2012, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that “a daily serving of red meat no larger than a deck of cards increased the risk of adult-onset diabetes by 19 percent.”

A University of Adelaide study published in 2016 found that: “High meat availability is correlated to increased prevalence of obesity.”

A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that people who consumed large amounts of meat protein experienced a 60-percent increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD), while people who consumed large amounts of protein from nuts and seeds experienced a 40-percent reduction in CVD.

Plant-based diets

A 2016 Oxford University study found that a global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050.

number of studies have found that plant-based diets are associated with health benefits, including reduced symptoms of arthritis and reduced blood sugar and cholesterol.

More recently, five studies presented at a 2018 nutrition conference found that eating healthy, primarily vegetarian foods is associated with lower risk of chronic diseases, weight gain and death.

A plant-based/vegan diet, free of animal products, can be healthy at any stage of life – from children to teens, older adults and pregnant or nursing mothers.

Canada’s revised Food Guide recommends that Canadians shift their consumption to more plant-based foods, including suggestions to incorporate plant-based proteins more often. The Food Guide also acknowledges that many of the well-studied healthy eating patterns from areas of the world where people statistically live the longest include mostly plant-based foods. 

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