Until recently, due to the lack of quality statistical studies, too great of a role in the great debate between vegetarians and meat eaters was played by a rhetorical component. A large-scale study involving 120,000 people showed that consumption of red meat significantly reduces life expectancy.
The position of vegetarians, due to the lack of data on long-term effects of meat diet on health, often boiled down to not always scientifically sound and ethical reasoning. The meat eaters recognized the proven harm of pre-processed (smoked, canned, freeze dried, etc.) meat and large amounts of animal fats. However, they stood their ground, indicating that the nutrient properties of freshly prepared meats (also unproven scientifically) are more important than hypothetical long-term risk of meat diet.
A large study conducted by a group of doctors from the Harvard School of Public Health, who worked under the guidance of Doctor of Medicine An Pan, revealed that fears of vegetarians are absolutely justified. Consumption of red meat is clearly correlated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and metabolic diseases, while the replacement of meat from mammals with fish and poultry greatly reduces this risk.
The findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine – the journal of the American Medical Association.
In the analysis of long-term effects on meat diet, An Pan and his colleagues relied on a statistical study of an impressive scale. A total of 37,698 men and 83,644 women participated in the study. Their health, along with the diet, was tracked for 28 years in the second group, and for 22 years in the first group. During this time, 23,926 deaths were recorded in the two groups surveyed, of which 5,910 – from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 – from cancer.
“We found that higher consumption of red meat is associated with a significant increase in mortality from these diseases, and this relationship can be traced in the case of pre-processed and freshly prepared meats, with higher correlations for the pre-processed. When replacing red meat with fish, vegetables and poultry, there was an inverse relationship – reduced mortality,” the authors commented on the results of the study.