Study: Eating Meat Raises Risk of Heart Disease

Eating beef, lamb, pork and processed meats spells trouble for your heart, and the more you eat, the worse it gets, new research warns.

The meta-analysis — an overview of data from a large number of studies — included more than 1.4 million people who were followed for 30 years. It found that for each 1.75 ounces of beef, lamb and pork consumed, the risk of heart disease rose 9%, CNN reported.

Processed meats were even worse: For each 1.75 ounces of processed meats such as bacon, ham or sausage consumed, the risk rose 18%, according to the study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

A recommended serving of meat is about 3 ounces, the size of a bar of soap or deck of cards, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Processed meat appears to be worse for coronary heart disease,” study co-author Anika Knüppel, a nutritional epidemiologist in the department of population health at the University of Oxford, in England, told CNN.

“This is in line with what has been found for bowel [colon] cancer, where processed meat has been shown to be associated with higher increase in risk than red meat,” Knüppel added.

The good news from the study is that poultry — such as chicken and turkey — don’t appear to increase the risk of heart disease, CNN reported. Considered lean meats, most types of poultry do not contain the levels of saturated fat as found in red meat, nor the high levels of sodium that are part of processed meats.

Saturated fat contributes to the development of plaque on your artery walls, which can create dangerous blockages. Meanwhile, sodium raises blood pressure, restricting the flow of blood to the heart.

Source: HealthDay

Meat Consumption Continues to Decline, Now Averaging 57.3 Kg Per Person in Germany

According to provisional data from Germany’s Federal Agricultural Information Centre (BZL), the per capita consumption of animal meat last year was lower than at any time since consumption was first calculated in 1989, at 57.3 kilograms per person – meaning an average of 750 grams less than was consumed in Germany than in the previous year.

Compared to 2019, 2.4 percent less pork and 2.7 percent less beef and veal was produced in 2020. However, the data also showed that net production of poultry meat increased by 1.7 percent, highlighting the urgent need for plant-based chicken producers such as fast-growing vegan fried chicken brand VFC, which is currently expanding its operations from the UK into mainland Europe including Germany.

The governmental report also showed that the transportation of live animals also decreased in 2020: in comparison to 2019, 14.8 per cent fewer live animals were imported and eleven per cent fewer were eleven percent less exported. Furthermore, imports and exports of meat products and canned food decreased by 7.8 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

Such findings corroborate a study as reported by vegconomist last November which revealed that the number of vegans had doubled from 1.3 million in 2016 to 2.6 million in 2020 — a total of 3.2 percent of the population.

More than 40% of Germans are cutting down on meat, Psychologist Christopher Bryant of Bath University commented: “The social implications here are potentially quite profound. The view that being a carnivore is ‘normal’ is part of the lay moral reasoning for continuing to eat meat. But once that is a minority view, and meat replacement options become cheaper and tastier, the trend is likely to continue in one direction.”

Source: Vegconomist

Are We Designed to Eat Meat?

Justine Butler wrote . . . . . . . . .

Do you think that our little canine teeth show that we are natural meat-eaters? If so, you are not alone, but you are wrong. Consider how carnivores eat, you might not (literally) have the stomach for it; could you snatch up a rabbit and tear into the flesh with your bare teeth like a lion does? Their canines reach up to seven centimetres in length and can rip just about anything apart, yours can’t!

Comparing carnivores and herbivores

Carnivores have sharp teeth and claws that help them to rip their prey apart, tearing off chunks of raw meat and ‘wolfing’ them down without the aid of a knife and fork! Their acidic stomachs help to digest flesh quickly and their short intestines allow the rapid expulsion of rotting meat remains. The diet of wolves, for example, consists mainly of meat from large prey such as elks, with nutrient-dense organs eaten first followed by muscle tissue. When carnivores eat saturated fat from meat it does them no harm, we on the other hand respond very differently – saturated fat clogs up our arteries increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke.

Herbivores, such as rabbits, horses and sheep, chew from side-to-side and have longer intestines to absorb nutrients. Their saliva (and ours) contains amylase, an enzyme that helps digest starchy carbohydrates found in bread, rice and other wholegrains. Carnivores don’t spend as much time chewing nor do they consume many carbohydrates, so there is no need for amylase in their saliva. Their strong jaws can only open and shut and are incapable of moving from side to side as ours do.

Human beings have characteristics of herbivores

We have short, soft fingernails not claws and our canine teeth are small and blunt and have no chance of penetrating a hide. When asked if humans are herbivores, carnivores or omnivores, Dr William C. Roberts, Editor-in-Chief, of The American Journal of Cardiology said: “Although most of us conduct our lives as omnivores in that we eat flesh as well as vegetables and fruits, human beings have characteristics of herbivores, not carnivores”.

The Palaeolithic, or hunter-gatherer, diet as a model for modern human nutrition was first proposed in the 1980s by US anthropologists Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner. It assumed our ancestors ate mostly lean meat and fish, with some fruit and vegetables, but no dairy, grains or pulses – a diet high in protein and low in carbs. Paleo promoters reckon the mismatch between this diet and contemporary Western diets is responsible for the current high levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The evidence shows something different. Charred fragments found in 170,000-year-old ashes in a cave in southern Africa suggest the real Paleo diet included lots of roasted vegetables rich in carbohydrates, similar to modern potatoes. At a Stone Age site in Israel, more than 9,000 remains of edible plants provided more compelling evidence that our ancient ancestors enjoyed a varied, plant-based diet, including root vegetables, leafy veg, celery, figs, nuts, seeds and chenopodium seeds (similar to quinoa).

Writing about our ancient ancestors in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation magazine, Dr Amanda Henry, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said: “Plants were the staples. They were the foods that formed the basis of our calories in most environments”.

The trend continues throughout our history, with geochemical analysis of grains and pulses from Neolithic sites confirming that early farmers also relied much more heavily on plant protein than previously thought. So, only in recent times, it seems, did we switch to relying so heavily on animal protein.

A flawed notion

The notion that we are designed to eat meat has many other flaws. The average life expectancy of our ancient ancestors was around 30 years, so even if they did live on a diet of meat and more meat (they didn’t), they simply wouldn’t have lived long enough to develop heart disease.

Paleo pundits assume that our biology has not changed from the Palaeolithic era that began over three million years ago but genetic evidence doesn’t agree and shows that our bodies have adapted over time to suit a plant-based diet – and that includes producing more amylase in our saliva. Domesticated dogs produce much more amylase than wolves from whom they evolved – not in their saliva but from their pancreases – allowing them, too, to thrive on starch-rich diets.

Adapted to plant foods

Another adaptation that points to a plant-based diet is our ability to build long-chain fatty acids, important for brain development and cognitive function. Neolithic farmers probably ate less of these than their predecessors and evidence shows how we developed enzymes to build these long-chain fats from the short ones found widely in nuts, seeds and their oils.

Plant foods fuelled our evolution

Despite the evidence that plant foods fuelled our evolution and that we are more suited to a plant-based diet, the meaty myths persist, including the notion that meat made us smart. The ‘expensive-tissue hypothesis’, proposed in the 1990’s by British scientists Leslie Aiello and Peter Wheeler, states that the high energy requirement of our relatively large brains is offset by a corresponding reduction in our gut size. The theory is that eating meat enabled us to reduce the size of our gut, freeing up energy for the brain. But it’s not as simple as that. Researchers say that the discovery of fire and cooking improved the quality of our diet by making food easier to digest. We also saved energy by walking upright, by growing more slowly and reproducing later and it was these factors that fuelled the growth in our brain size.

Far from tearing animals apart with our teeth, we aren’t even suited to eating raw meat or cooked meat, even at moderate levels, as it is linked to a wide range of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer – in fact, all the big killer diseases.

The typical Western diet, packed with meat, dairy and processed food, is linked to a wide range of illnesses and diseases but a Paleo diet is not the answer. All major health bodies recommend reducing meat consumption, not only for your own health but for the planet too, because animal agriculture is having a devastating effect on the environment. A varied vegan diet can meet all your nutritional needs and is the best diet for animals and the planet – and we are designed for it!

Source: ViVa! Health

Is Eating Beef Healthy? The New Fight Raging in Nutrition Science

Julia Belluz wrote . . . . . . . . .

A group of 14 researchers just set off a firestorm with a new series of studies that upends years of nutrition advice about meat. Their five systematic reviews, published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, suggest there’s no health reason to eat less red meat — not even the bacon and salami we’ve been told for years to cut back on.

Led by Dalhousie University epidemiologist Bradley Johnston, the authors, who hail from seven different countries, focused on the impact of red meat consumption on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality, among other effects, as well as people’s values and preferences regarding red meat.

Based on these studies, their conclusions — summarized in a new Annals clinical guideline — challenge the guidelines from just about every major national and international health group. Just four years ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that people should cut back on processed meats if they wanted to avoid certain types of cancer. The American Heart Association and the US government’s dietary guidelines panel have also long suggested curbing our meat habit for better health.

But the authors of the new studies argue that people can “continue their current consumption of both unprocessed red meat and processed meat,” meaning whatever amount they’re currently eating. That’s because the health impact of cutting back is either nonexistent or small, and the evidence of any harms is so weak, that it’d be misleading to suggest people should avoid meat for health reasons.

Importantly, the studies did not investigate non-health reasons for eschewing beef and bacon — including animal welfare and meat production’s harmful impact on the environment — and the science backing the environmental case remains stronger than ever.

But what’s really interesting about this new series is the argument that previously published guidelines have been, well, bad science.

“These papers provide a nice counterbalance to the current norm in nutritional epidemiology where scientists with strong advocacy tend to overstate their findings and ask for major public health overhauls even though the evidence is weak,” said Stanford meta-researcher John Ioannidis, a longtime critic of nutrition science who was not involved in the research.

So it comes as no surprise that already, the Annals series has prompted a fierce blowback from various groups who’ve long argued that red and processed meat consumption should be curbed. The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a slew of other researchers objected to the series. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group that’s long endorsed a plant-based diet — filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission in response to the studies, asking the agency to “correct false statements” contained in the report, which they deemed a “major disservice to public health.”

So how did the authors of the new studies come to a wildly different conclusion? It’s less a story about whether or not one should eat meat and more about the challenges of nutrition science and how eating recommendations should be made.

Why the study authors determined eating red meat is fine for health

In the past, many of the groups that have set guidelines for whether or not humans should cut back on meat considered a very broad range of research, from animal evidence to case-control studies, a relatively weak type of observational research. (Here’s more on different types of study designs.) As you may have guessed, there are all kinds of problems with these kinds of study designs.

Models based on animal studies don’t always bear out in humans. Case-control studies are not the most reliable, either: Researchers start with an endpoint (for example, people who already have cancer). For each person with a disease (a case), they find a match (a control) — or someone who doesn’t have the disease. They then look backward in time and try to determine if any patterns of exposure (in this case, eating meat) differed in those with cancer compared to those who don’t have cancer.

But since meat eaters differ so fundamentally from those who don’t eat meat, the reasons the two groups have varying health outcomes could have nothing to do with meat. Researchers try to control for these “confounding factors,” but they can’t capture all of them.

Some past reports on meat eating have also factored in the environmental and social effects of gobbling up steaks and bacon.

The five Annals papers did something different: They looked only at the health effects of processed and unprocessed red meat. Processed red meats — everything from hotdogs and bacon to lunch meats — are transformed by salting, curing, or fermentation. Unprocessed meats include beef, veal, pork, lamb, and venison. The papers were also systematic reviews and meta analyses, or syntheses of the research evidence that bring together a bunch of studies with the goal of coming to more fully supported conclusions. And the researchers used a very strict definition of what constituted reliable evidence for inclusion in their reviews.

GRADE, a tool researchers used to come up with their guidelines, explained

More specifically, they relied on a trusted research-rating system called GRADE, or the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation, to decide which studies to include in their papers. GRADE was developed for creating summaries of research evidence to help guide health decision-making. It’s currently the most widely used tool for evaluating the quality of science, with more than 110 organizations endorsing the method.

The idea behind GRADE is to push reviewers to base their conclusions on only the most certain evidence available. And, according to the tool’s criteria, in the case of meat consumption and health, that was large cohort studies and randomized control trials. So the researchers simply threw everything else out, including the animal studies.

The logic was simple, says study author Gordon Guyatt, a professor at McMaster University who also helped develop GRADE. “What GRADE does is say we should rely on the highest quality evidence. In this instance, we had 600 cohort studies alone.”

Cohort studies are considered to be more trustworthy than case-control studies. Unlike case-control studies, they follow people with a known exposure (eating meat) through time, waiting to see if, when, and how many people develop a particular health outcome (such as heart disease or cancer). This means researchers are not left searching for artificial controls to match their cases. And since participants are followed forward, researchers can track in real time what they’re eating instead of relying on people’s faulty memories of the past.

Randomized controlled trials, meanwhile, are deemed the gold standard in health research. They take two groups of people and randomly assign them to an intervention (in this case, eating meat or not). The idea is that the only difference between the two is the intervention (whether or not they ate meat) and not any of those other confounding factors, like socioeconomic status. And while they’re challenging (and rare) in nutrition research, they’re generally more reliable than, say, animal models.

So that’s why the conclusions of the series look different from other similar reports: They used a new approach to evaluating nutrition research, picking out the best available evidence, tossing the rest.

On a range of health outcomes — from deaths due to cancer and cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer incidence, stroke, all-cause mortality, and heart attack — the researchers generally found either no benefit on cutting back on meat or one so small, and based on such weak evidence, it was deemed unreliable. (You can read the papers here, here, here, and here.) For the fifth review, the researchers looked at people’s feelings about meat consumption, again focusing only on health concerns (read: not moral, ethical, or environmental reasons for avoiding meat). And they found, essentially, that many people are attached to meat, and feel being able to eat it influences their quality of life.

Even the best evidence in nutrition is far from perfect

But the authors were clear that even the best-available evidence on meat is far from perfect. Let’s parse the language in their guideline recommendation (emphasis mine):

The panel suggests that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence).

In GRADE, there are four levels of evidence. And evidence is rated down if it’s deemed problematic for any reason — from imprecision to risk of being biased. In the case of meat and disease, the researchers determined, even the best evidence was “low certainty.”

So, Guyatt said, “We’re closer to saying: we really don’t know,” while past guidelines have generally suggested we fully understand meat’s health effects.

Now let’s look at what a “weak recommendation” means, according to GRADE. Weirdly, this isn’t just about the strength of the evidence; it’s also about people’s values and preferences.

A “strong recommendation” comes when a guideline panel believes all fully informed people would make the same choice. A “weak” one comes when “there is likely to be important variation in the decision that informed persons are likely to make,” according to a BMJ explainer on GRADE. As you’ll remember, one of their Annals reviews looked at people’s values and preferences around meat consumption, and found the majority of people value meat.

“When you trade that off with uncertain — and if it exists at all — small benefit from reducing meat,” Guyatt added, “our inference is that most people would choose to continue.” Hence, the weak recommendation.

In the past, he added, guidelines appeared to be focused on getting people to eat less meat rather than a truly dispassionate look at the science. “It doesn’t serve that goal well to point out either the uncertainty or the small effect.”

Not everyone is sold on the researchers’ approach

While people like the tough-to-please meta-researcher John Ioannidis called the series “very rigorous and unbiased,” others were not as impressed.

The Harvard School of Public Health — well known for trumpeting a plant-based, Mediterranean eating pattern — issued a response to the series, essentially discrediting it for discounting all the evidence showing meat’s links with poor health.

Christopher Gardner, a Stanford nutrition researcher, called the study’s GRADE approach inappropriate for nutrition. “I respect they want to have a clear-cut evidence base,” he told Vox, “but it won’t apply to lifestyle.”

Other guidelines consider observational epidemiology in additional to animal research and randomized trials, he added. “If you do that — and you’re the WHO — you say ‘based on the overall evidence from multiple disciplines, this is our best advice,’” said Gardner. “[The Annals researchers] just cut that off at the knees and said we’re not going to consider most of that.” Specifically, he was concerned that the authors threw out important and potentially relevant research, such as the PREDIMED and the Lyon Diet Heart studies. While these randomized trials didn’t focus on meat consumption, they did contain data on dietary patterns involving meat that may have been relevant.

Then there was the concern over the series’ omission: meat’s impact on climate, water, land, and pollution. “This is a missed opportunity,” the Harvard researchers wrote, “because climate change and environmental degradation have serious effects on human health, and thus is important to consider when making recommendations on diet, even if this is addressed separately from direct effects on individual health.”

But that wasn’t the purpose of the studies, said Guyatt. The point was to zero in on the fraught question of meat’s direct influence on health. Plus, he added, the new series is an attempt to do something radical: to say the rules of science should apply to nutrition. “Why have one set of rules for judging [nutrition] and another set of rules for some other area?” he asked. As he and his colleagues continue to apply their new method to other dietary questions, they may lead us to more uncomfortable conclusions.

Source: Vox

Greenpeace Calls for 71% Less Meat Consumption in Europe by 2030

Meat consumption in the European Union should drop by 71% by 2030, and by 81% by 2050, to tackle farming’s contribution to climate breakdown, according to new analysis by Greenpeace. This would mean an average of no more than 460 grams of all types of meat leaving the slaughterhouse per person per week by 2030, and 300 grams in 2050, down from the current EU average of 1.58 kilograms per person per week.

Given that not all meat is ultimately sold or eaten, the actual amount of meat that people eat would be under 460 grams – probably less than the equivalent of three burgers per week. The Lancet recommends that people eat no more than 300 grams of meat per week by 2050 as part of a balanced, sustainable diet.

Europeans consume around twice as much meat as the global average, and almost three times as much dairy. Figures for all EU countries, plus the UK, are available below.

Greenpeace is calling on the European Commission to recognise the environmental impact of meat and dairy overconsumption, and to include reduction targets in its upcoming ‘Farm to Fork’ food strategy, due to be published on 25 March.

Greenpeace EU agriculture and forest campaigner Sini Eräjää said: “The science is overwhelming at this stage – overconsumption of meat and dairy is wrecking forests, crushing nature and heating the planet. The Commission wants to talk about ensuring healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable way? Great idea, but that means it’s time to talk about reducing meat.”

The calculation of a reduction of global meat consumption to 24kg per person per year by 2030, and then further to 16kg per person per year by 2050, is based on levels that scientists say would ensure food security, while keeping global heating below 1.5°C.

Spain has the highest per capita meat consumption in the EU at over 100kg per person per year, requiring a 76% reduction by 2030. Bulgaria has the lowest consumption at 58kg per person annually, requiring a 59% drop by 2030.

The latest drafts of the Commission’s Farm to Fork plan recognise the EU’s overproduction and overconsumption of meat and dairy as a problem, but fail to propose measures to reduce them. Greenpeace’s demands for the Farm to Fork strategy are available here.

On 9 March, 3,600 scientists published an article condemning the EU’s common agricultural policy and its continued support of industrial animal farming. They recommended cutting payments for intensive animal farming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Meat and dairy production contributes to climate breakdown and to the destruction of forests and other ecosystems. Animals like cows and pigs expel greenhouse gases directly and drive clearing of natural areas used for feed production.

Source: Greenpeace