Meat Consumption May Leads To Numerous Health Risks
The World Health Organization has determined that red meat can cause colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there any other health risks associated with eating meat?
Well, a new study published in BMC Medicine recently tried to find this out. Researchers investigated whether meat consumption was linked to one of the 25 leading causes of hospitalization in the UK other than cancer. They found a link between regular consumption of red or processed meat with five non-cancerous diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia. Meanwhile, frequent poultry consumption has been associated with six different diseases, including gallbladder disease and diabetes.
“We have long known that unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption can be carcinogenic and this study is the first to assess the risk of 25 non-cancerous health conditions related to meat intake in one study,” says Dr. Keren Papier of the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford and lead author in a press release.
The researchers studied 474,985 middle-aged adults in the UK and asked them to complete a diet questionnaire that assessed how often they ate meat weekly. The researchers then compared the participants’ meat consumption with hospitalization and mortality data. In addition to the above findings, the researchers found that for every 70 grams of red or processed meat someone ate per day, the risk of developing heart disease increased by 15% and the risk of diabetes increased by 30%. For every additional 30 grams of poultry someone consumes in a day, the risk of diabetes increases by 14%.
Eating meat, however, had a health benefit: reducing the risk of iron deficiency. The researchers estimated a 20% risk reduction for every 50 grams of red meat more per day and 17% for every 30 grams of poultry more per day.
Researchers also found that people who ate meat three or more times a week were also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating fewer fruits and vegetables. They were also more likely to have a high BMI. The researchers adjusted their calculations to eliminate these factors and learned that the health risk of meat consumption was reduced after calculating the body mass index.
“More research is needed to assess whether the risk differences we observed in relation to meat intake reflect causal relationships and, if so, the extent to which these diseases could be prevented by reducing meat consumption,” Papier said.
This finding however does not mean that people should stop eating meat, according to public health experts. Instead, Public Health England recommended that anyone who eats more than 90 grams of meat per day should cut it down to 70 grams, according to The Guardian.
“Globally, evidence suggests that people who eat red and processed meats should limit their intake,” said Dr. Alison Tedstone, the agency’s leading nutritionist, to The Guardian. “While it may be part of a healthy diet, overeating has been linked to an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.”
However, there are also environmental and ethical reasons for choosing to stop eating meat. Studies have shown that eliminating products of animal origin is the biggest step a person can take to limit their environmental impact. Papier advised those who do. “The outcome of meat consumption is associated with a lower risk of iron deficiency anemia, however, indicating that people who do not eat meat should be careful about getting enough iron through dietary sources or supplements,” she said.
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