Meat Consumption and Health Decline, A Biobank Study
From the kitchen to the research lab, meat is a frequent topic of discussion. We value it as a rich source of protein and beneficial nutrients. Lately, though, we’re expanding our understanding of meat by asking questions such as, “How much is too much?”, “How risky is meat consumption?”, and “Is meat bad for you?”
Recent research has associated meat consumption with many more health risks, including:
- ischemic heart disease
“Meat consumption” refers to:
Processed meat: any meat modified to improve its taste, such as hot dogs, sausages, lunch meats, and bacon.
Red meat contains the iron-rich protein myoglobin. Examples include lamb, goat, rabbit, or beef (cattle).
White Meat: Lighter-colored meat from birds and small game animals. Chicken, goose, and duck are examples.
Is Meat Bad for You in Other Ways?
After thoroughly documenting meat’s links to colorectal cancer, researchers have moved on to examining the other risks of consuming it.
One stand-out cohort follow-up study from Oxford University included nearly half a million participants! The study began recruiting members in 2006 and ended in 2017.
Its average follow-up rate was about eight years. When starting, participants recorded their daily dietary intake through an online touchscreen questionnaire.
For the duration of the research, 69,000 participants recorded their daily intakes at least three times using a 24-hour online questionnaire.
To compensate for an existing scarcity of information, the Oxford researchers included data on white-meat consumption in their findings.
In answering the question “Is meat bad for you?” their ultimate goal was to cover new territory – the links between 25 common non-cancerous diseases and eating meat. The results speak for themselves.
The analysis of this prospective cohort study of nearly 500.000 UK adults showed high meat consumption resulted in increased:
and other disorders.
They categorized the outcomes according to the type of meat eaten:
Unprocessed red and processed meats: Eating both red and processed meat was associated with:
- ischemic heart disease
- colon polyps
and diverticular disease.
Poultry meat: Eating chicken, turkey, and duck meat was associated with:
- diverticular disease
- gastritis and duodenitis
- gallbladder disease
and increased risk of gastroesophageal disease development (GERD)
The research also linked eating poultry and red meat to a decreased risk of iron-deficiency anemia. Unprocessed meat is very high in iron. However, this isn’t necessarily positive.
Because it comes with an increased risk of so many other diseases. We can get our iron from broccoli and many green vegetables, and inexpensive iron supplements are widely available.
The Oxford study also made a clear connection between its results and the participants’ weight: “Differences in BMI across the categories of meat consumption appear to account for a substantial part of the increased risks”.
Simply put, as time went by, higher body mass index (BMI) or body weight played a significant role in disease development. This connection highlights how dangerous and common obesity has become!
The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized obesity as a global epidemic. Those with high body weight have a higher risk of adverse health effects, whether they consume meat or not. (3)
What We Can Understand from This:
- Cohort studies such as Oxford University’s are unfortunately slow to gain global recognition.
- Humans are far more likely to under- than overestimate a problem. Typically, we act only after devastating damage occurs.
We’ve seen this with smoking, where decades passed before research revealed its negative consequences. (4).
We’ve also seen it in the 1950s and ’60s Contergan (thalidomide) scandal. A medicine prescribed as a tranquilizer led to thousands of congenital disabilities and infant deaths. (5).
Painting the picture of our misguided trust in entities who want nothing but their own benefit isn’t tricky. What we can trust to answer the question “Is meat bad for you?” are science-based statistics.
We’d be wise to lower our meat consumption – because, as the old medical adage puts it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
That’s the sort of thinking that could ensure you a healthier and happier life!