Health experts worldwide agree, people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should cut back

As physicians we recognize that lean meats may be a healthy part of almost anyone’s diet. However, based on the preponderance of evidence compiled by scientists and health experts across the globe, there is little doubt that a diet high in red and processed meats is linked to serious health risks and that we would all be wise to keep our consumption down. New dietary guidelines, recently released by the United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) bolsters this conclusion. The SACN’s Iron and Health 2010 report advises that Britons can reduce their risk of colorectal cancer while maintaining healthy levels of iron by keeping their red meat and processed meat consumption to 70 grams or about 2 ½ ounces a day.

Cutting back on red and processed meat could do more than just ward off colorectal cancer.  Research has linked it to other diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. A landmark United State’s study, published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Meat Intake and Mortality, which included data from more than half a million members of the AARP, concluded red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases of “total” mortality in addition to cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality. An equally important Harvard study, published in Circulation in 2009, that followed more than 84,000 female nurses, found that red meat intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease. More importantly researchers concluded that shifting sources of protein from meat based to plant based could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

The Washington Post reports that cutting down on red meat could save an estimated 3,800 Britons from dying of bowel cancer every year. However, SACN researchers made it clear that their report did not address other potential health risks associated with meat consumption, which means many more lives could be saved from other preventable diseases. Read More >

Food & Dignity

“So, where do the leftover veggies go?” It’s a common question around here, especially on Tuesdays.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, connecting students, faculty and staff with fresh, organic, Maryland-grown produce. Those who have paid upfront for a share of the season’s harvest at Maryland’s One Straw Farm stop by the JHSPH parking garage every Tuesday to pick up their shares.

At the end of the day, at least a dozen crates of unclaimed produce remain.  Some folks just aren’t crazy about, say, chard, but CLF and One Straw Farm donate most of the extra shares. Since August, we’ve been sending this produce to the Franciscan Center of Baltimore, an outreach agency that has been providing emergency assistance and support to those who need it for 42 years-and serving hot meals for 30. On a typical day, the Center serves 400 meals. At the end of the month, when SNAP benefits run out, the number runs closer to 600.


In the Franciscan Center kitchen with the cooks

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Franciscan Center with two of my colleagues. We were met with a warm welcome from Ed McNally, the new Executive Director of the Center. An attorney and former Roman Catholic priest, Ed stressed the importance of treating each client with respect. One of the main goals of the Franciscan Center is to recognize the dignity of each human being, and this intention is apparent: the facility is immaculate and the staff and volunteers tremendously kind. A mural brightens the dining room and positive messages throughout the building uplift passers-by. The Center has an open door policy: rather than requiring proof of homelessness or unemployment, the staff and volunteers welcome as many clients as they can accommodate.

Ed stressed the importance of serving fresh, healthy food in an emergency assistance setting like this one. Read More >

Meatless Monday: A Campaign Rooted in Public Health

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health embraced the Meatless Monday campaign back in 2003, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has proudly served as the national campaign’s scientific advisor ever since. Today I welcome and laud The Johns Hopkins Hospital for launching its own Meatless Monday campaign. In an effort to promote the health benefits of eating more grains, fruits and vegetables the “Wellness Corner” in the Hospital’s main cafeteria is cutting out meat and serving only vegetarian options on Mondays. (Meat options will still be available in other parts of the cafeteria.) The national Meatless Monday campaign’s primary focus is to reduce the consumption of saturated fat by 15%, following the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in 2000. Read More >

Pedometers from Healthy Monday delivered to Richmond High Students

pedometerOn Tuesday, while working on my capstone research, I delivered some Healthy Monday pedometers to the participants of a food survey at the school. The incentive for taking the survey as part of the “control” group in my study was this item from the Healthy Monday program. The students were extremely excited and commented frequently on how “cool” the pedometer looked. They immediately started tapping the pedometer up and down to try and get the steps to increase even though they weren’t moving. We talked a lot about caloric balance and that people had to balance the calories coming in and going out and some strategies for doing that.

Some students challenged their teacher to see who actually walks more during the day. At present moment the students are somehow winning even though they sit in class all period while the teacher walks around. We know that delivering pedometers is not enough. When urban students are placed in an obesogenic physical environment that produces far more density of calories than density of nutrition, these are they types of discussions that need to be happening everyday.

We talked about the Health Monday website and the ability to find healthy recipes and strategies for healthy living. Much thanks to the participating teachers, Jessica Price, Lorna McClellan and Rishi Patel.

– Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl

Meatless Monday Serves as Model for New Health Behavior Change Campaigns

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) recognizes that one important way to affect change in the food system is to find ways to improve consumer purchasing and eating behaviors. The Meatless Monday campaign, which CLF endorsed seven years ago, encourages Americans to take control of their health by refraining from eating meat products one day a week. Meats like beef are more likely to contain saturated fats than most non-meat food sources. By cutting out high sources of saturated fats one day a week, Americans can help meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of calories consumed each day. Meatless Monday has the potential to not only improve the populations’ health, but could also reduce unsustainable levels of demand for meat products, particularly industrially-produced meat, which use huge amounts of valuable natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks.

On the health behavior change side, the “Monday” model has great potential to serve as an effective communications tool to bolster virtually any long-term campaign.  The model provides health promotion communicators 52 times a year to hammer home a message, convey reinforcements, reminders, and prompts. Likewise, it also gives a person trying to improve her/his own health behaviors 52 times a year to restart their commitment or behavior change if they fall off the wagon. Read More >

“Go Red for Women” Gets Stronger by the Week

This Friday millions of Americans will wear red to highlight women’s risk of dying from heart disease.  About ten times as many women die from heart disease as breast cancer in the United States each year, yet an astonishing 90 percent of primary care doctors still don’t know that heart attacks kill more women than men. This year Healthy Monday is urging women to continue wearing red once a week, to help sound the alarm all year long.

“By wearing something red every Monday, women can signal their commitment to their own heart health” says Sid Lerner, Chairman of the Healthy Monday Campaign. “By sharing the reason they’re wearing red with women they meet, that lifesaving information becomes viral.  If every Monday a woman tells two friends, and they tell two friends, pretty soon women all over the country will have this crucial information. It’s just like compounding interest, but it’s about saving lives.” Read More >