A series of unprecedented studies on the health effects of red and processed meat were just published in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine. I have always recommended that you treat meat like a side dish, while making vegetables and plant-based proteins the stars of your meals. But the statisticians who wrote the new studies are recommending no change in meat consumption at all.
From some of the headlines you will be seeing, you might believe that they found that eating less meat actually had no benefit for health, but that is not the case. If you look closer, you’ll see that their analysis endorsed the findings of most other studies by revealing that eating less meat can reduce the risk of death from heart disease and cancer, and even reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. So how come their advice is different than the rest of the nutrition world?
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The researchers essentially concluded that the benefits of eating less meat are too small to mandate to any particular individual and that people like eating meat so likely won’t stop anyway. In fact, we have seen the opposite trend towards leaning green, in part because of the ethical and global warming concerns. If we applied the researchers’ “logic” to any lifestyle intervention, doctors would never make any recommendations at all that could improve individual health.
But the reality is this: Eating less meat can make a positive impact on your health, especially when you replace it with other foods like vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Even if the effects in studies are small, when it comes to the population health, they are significant. In fact, calculations by Dr. Frank Hu, from the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the True Health Initiative, found that based on the findings of the new studies, 200,000 lives could potentially be saved by cutting down on meat consumption – a finding worth fighting about.