Could eating meat cause an early death?

Reducing your meat consumption could give you a longer life [Photo: Pexels]
Reducing your meat consumption could give you a longer life [Photo: Pexels]

It’s widely known that eating less meat is better for the environment. But what about for our bodies?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from a number of things including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and blood cholesterol.

Several researchers believe that reducing your meat consumption (or eliminating it altogether) could prevent many of the more serious conditions known as chronic diseases.

There is a decided link between a carnivorous diet and deadly conditions including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, 7 out of 10 global deaths result from one of these diseases.

Scientists say that many of these deaths could be avoided if we made some simple changes to our diet.

Eating less meat and focusing more on a plant-based diet could help in preventing around 90% of coronary artery disease cases.

Another study proved similar benefits of a vegetarian diet. The experiment, which followed over 44,000 people for 11 years, found that vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of developing coronary artery disease.

Even people already suffering from coronary artery disease can see improvements by cutting out the meat. One trial found that a plant-based diet reduced the risk of a cardiac event by almost 2.5 times.

Cutting down on red and processed meat is advisable, according to researchers [Photo: Pexels]
Cutting down on red and processed meat is advisable, according to researchers [Photo: Pexels]

It’s not just heart disease that can be affected by meat. The risk of developing cancer and diabetes can also be significantly lowered by switching to a veggie lifestyle.

In 2014, a huge study looked at the results of eight previous studies, finding that pescatarians, vegetarians and those on a Mediterranean diet (which is based on eating less animal products) could reduce the risk of getting cancer by 7 to 13% and diabetes by 16 to 41%.

Eating meat may also reduce your lifespan (though it’s unclear by exactly how much). However, what is clear is that those on a vegetarian diet have a lower mortality risk.

A similar study found that replacing just 3% of animal proteins with plant ones could lower an individual’s risk of mortality by 34%.

It’s widely accepted that a diet that includes less red meat and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could equate to 5.1 million avoided deaths every year across the globe. If more people took up a vegetarian diet, this figure would rise even more.

The NHS recommends that no more than 70g of red and processed meat is eaten every day. To put that into context, an English breakfast containing two sausages and two rashers of bacon is around 130g.

These guidelines exist for a number of reasons: one being the link between meat and bowel cancer and the other being the amount of cholesterol-raising fat and salt that exists in meat.

If you’re struggling to cut out meat for good, opt for healthier options such as a leaner cut and grilling instead of frying. Limiting your intake of processed meat (i.e. sausages and burgers) is also a good bet.

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