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 >

When Famous Meat Eaters Adopt Meatless Monday, “You Know Something is Happening”

When super-chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, self proclaimed lover of all forms of pork, decided to join the Meatless Monday movement, Washington Post food writer Jane Black took notice. In an article published today, she wrote, “when Mario Batali starts to push people to eat their vegetables, you know something is happening.”

Black does an excellent job of laying out the many issues surrounding the public health campaign’s call for everyone to cut meat out of their diet just one day a week. The current Meatless Monday campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets by about 15 percent. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) serves as a scientific advisor for the campaign. CLF recognizes that by adopting Meatless Monday individuals can improve their health and potentially reduce demand for meat products, particularly industrially produced meat, which use huge amounts of natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks. Read More >

Just Say No….

Check out today’s column, “Just Say No to Antibacterial Burgers,” by Washington Post Opinion Writer Ezra Klein. “This column, ” he says, “is based on a single and quite extraordinary statistic: Food animal production accounts for 70 percent — 70 percent! — of the antibiotics used in the United States.” Klein zeros in on the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009, now in before Congress, and the industry’s contention that the legislation will raise the price of meat. Pointing to a National Academy of Sciences study, which found eliminating the non-therapeutic antibiotics would cost between $5 to $10 per person each year, Klein says, “I’d pay that for a lower risk of super-staphylococcus.”

How Much Does U.S. Livestock Production Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

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"Livestock’s Long Shadow"

A round of applause for Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein for pointing out last week the undeniable fact that meat production is a major contributor to global warming, and that consumers can make a difference by cutting out their meat consumption just one day a week. How big a difference in greenhouse gases reduction it would make in the United States has long been a topic of debate, and something I’ve wanted to clarify for quite a while. Before I explain why, I want to make it clear that there is more than enough evidence that shows reducing meat consumption nationwide would lead to dramatic improvements in environmental degradation, widespread public and personal health risks, animal welfare and environmental and social justice issues.

First off, I’m pleased to see that mainstream media outlets are finally increasing their coverage of food systems’ effects on climate change. Believe it or not, it’s taken a while for the news gatekeepers to catch on. Last year Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s research and policy director Roni Neff published a paper in the journal of Public Health Nutrition that found U.S. newspaper coverage did not reflect the increasingly solid evidence of climate change effects due to current food systems. Read More >

Early Death Attributed to High Diet of Red Meat

A new study has found that high intakes of red or processed meat may increase the risk of mortality. The research, just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examined more than a half-million middle-aged and elderly Americans and found those who consumed four ounces of red meat a day were more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10-year length of the study.

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, researchers analyzed data from 545,653 predominantly white volunteers, ages 50 to 71, participating in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. In 1995, the subjects filled out detailed questionnaires about their diets, including meat consumption. Over the next 10 years, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died.

And the implications of a high-meat diet go beyond human mortality. “There is a global tsunami brewing, namely, we are seeing the confluence of growing constraints on water, energy, and food supplies combined with the rapid shift toward greater consumption of all animal source foods,” said Barry M. Popkin, a professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina, whose editorial is published with the study.

Make Mondays Meatless for a Healthier 2009

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Jennifer Huget reiterated some of the most common recommendations she hears from nutritionists-in an effort to make 2009 about healthy lifestyle changes, not necessarily the frustrating (and all-too-often unfulfilled) January resolutions to drop pounds or fit into a smaller dress size.

One of Huget’s recommendations hits close to home to us here at the Center for a Livable Future: making Mondays meatless.  

The Meatless Monday project, which is supported in part by Bloomberg School of Public Health, aims to help Americans bring their diets in line with government recommendations by reducing saturated fat consumption by 15 percent.  This conveniently works out to cutting saturated fat one day per week.  It’s a memorable way to start off the week eating in moderation. 

Check out meatlessmonday.com for dozens of mouthwatering recipe ideas for every meal of the day.   For those Maryland crab lovers out there, there is even a mock crab cake recipe.  Try it and let us know what you think! 

-Patti Truant