In yesterday’s post on the red meat vs white meat debate, the balance of the evidence I reviewed showed that white meat is safer to consume than red. But did it answer the question, “Is white meat healthy?”
Before getting to that, let’s take another look at the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 decision to classify processed meat as a proven Group I carcinogen.
They listed it in the same Group as smoking and asbestos. And right below it, in Group 2A, they listed red meat as a probable carcinogen.
The IARC based their decision on examining more than 800 studies, with an emphasis on “… large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.”
One cohort follow-up study, in particular, caught my attention. Over nearly five years, the researchers tracked more than 478,000 people for the development of diseases based on varying risk factors.
Prospective studies of this size and duration should have more than the medical community’s attention. We all deserve to be aware of them.
For example, one of them captured the medical community’s attention in 1954 when the Journal of the American Medical Association published its results.
Following 187,766 men for 20 months, it was the first large-scale study to associate smoking and lung cancer!
Still, it took an even more extensive cohort study involving over 1 million men and women and another ten years before the 1964 landmark Surgeon General’s warning on smoking!
More decades passed before we achieved widespread public acceptance that smoking is unhealthy. By then, how many people died of smoking-related lung cancer?
We must take the results of large-scale cohort studies seriously – instead of waiting for public sentiment to reflect the scientific truth.
Oxford University Asks, “Is White Meat Healthy?
That brings me to this week and another enormous cohort study on the links between red and white meat and multiple non-cancer-related diseases. This one is from Oxford University, and it’s a doozy!
The researchers focused on non-cancerous illness because the “… association between meat intake and cancer risk has [already] been comprehensively studied.”
They also noted a need to remedy the scarcity of studies on poultry and other white meats. So they decided to explore the connections between red and white meat consumption and 25 common, non-cancerous diseases.
Over half a million UK men and women participated in the study. After an average follow-up of eight years, the results were clear.
Eating more unprocessed red meat and processed meat led to an increased risk of:
- ischemic heart disease
- colon polyps
- diverticular disease
Eating poultry meat led to increased risk of:
- increased risk of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- gastritis and duodenitis
- diverticular disease
- gallbladder disease
**Eating unprocessed red meat or poultry resulted in a lower risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)
The researchers also found a “substantial part of the increased risks” was due to increased body mass index (BMI) from higher adiposity (fat).
In other words, many health risks associated with meat intake – whether red meat or white meat – were also associated with obesity. Weight gain caused by meat intake has many serious consequences, as we see in another significant report published this week.
Obesity and Covid Death Risk
World Obesity reveals that around 90% of Covid deaths are occurring in countries with more than half the population classified as overweight.
More specifically, says the report:
“Of the 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths reported by the end of February 2021, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half the population is classified as overweight.”
Being overweight impacts almost every area of our bodies including our immune system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system.
Does this leave those who aren’t overweight free to eat meat without consequences?
Well, ask yourself this: Is smoking okay for those with no apparent symptoms of lung disease?
Multiple extensive prospective studies were necessary to convince the public that smoking is harmful to our health. So, how many more studies will we need to convince us that eating meat is equally detrimental?
The balance of significant evidence from many prospective studies connects truly healthy foods such as beans, spinach, carrots, and apples to increased longevity and reduced disease risk, but not so with meat.
So, is white meat healthy?
The large Oxford prospective study published this week substantiates the adverse health outcomes associated with eating white meat.
We can no longer honestly call chicken and other white meats “healthy.” Although healthier than red meat, they’re merely the lesser of two unhealthy options.
Why choose either when plant-based foods offering nothing but positive health outcomes?
Bottom line: Stop smoking and stop eating meat.