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Plenty of research tells us that centering your diet around fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can prevent a long list of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
But wait… can’t you indulge in the occasional burger without worrying?
As it turns out, no, you can’t…
Even a little can be too much
There’s been a lot of research on the consequences of being a meat eater, particularly of consuming a lot of red meat.
Just two examples:
- A 2016 Glasgow University study showed that a diet high in red meat and low in fruits and vegetables increased biological age in contrast to chronological age. In other words, too much meat ages people beyond their years.
- In a 2017 study, researchers linked high levels of meat consumption with high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a gut chemical linked to heart disease.
But just like these two studies, most research has looked at people who eat large amounts of meat and do so on a regular basis.
Now, a new study has demonstrated that eating even a small amount of red and processed meat could be worse for your health than eating none…
Researchers at Loma Linda University Health tapped into data from people who took part in the Seventh Day Adventist Study. Between 2002 and 2007, this cohort study recruited close to 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists living in the U.S. and Canada.
As a group, Seventh Day Adventists are the perfect segment of the population for a study like this. That’s because about half of those who follow the religion strictly are vegetarians, and the other half eats very little meat.
To see whether low meat consumption had any effect on mortality, researchers followed 7,900 of the Adventists from the co-hort, and analyzed two factors: The first was the cause of death over an 11-year period; The second was a dietary assessment of the same individuals using food frequency questionnaires.
Of those in the group that ate meat, 90 percent reported only eating about 2 ounces of red meat a day.
They found that cardiovascular disease was responsible for 2,600 deaths, while more than 1,800 were related to cancer.
Eating red meat, as well as eating a combination of red meat and processed meats (think baconburger), was associated with a higher risk of death from both heart disease and cancer, compared to eating no meat.
“Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan,” said Dr. Michael Orlich, co-author of the study.
What about YOUR diet?
It might be easy to say that other factors may have contributed to the cancer and heart disease in this group of abnormally low meat consumers.
But researchers adjusted the results for various factors, including obesity, physical activity, and low intake of fruit and vegetables. They also took into account specific dietary factors, such as intake of dairy, whole grains, and legumes–all healthy foods.
And very few of the study participants smoked or drank alcohol.
Pretty compelling, right?
So, if you’re ready to get on board with what you can do now to live longer and avoid disease later, you have to face the meat question.
Fortunately, there are plenty of diet options out there that will automatically reduce your meat consumption to a bare minimum.
The Mediterranean diet and its close cousin, the MIND diet, both focus on foods other than meat. Think fatty fish, like salmon, and plant protein.
Of course, being a vegetarian is known to have its benefits, too: longer life, and lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Then there are the foods known as superfoods: rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Foods like:
- Kale and other cruciferous veggies
- Sweet potatoes
Get some of those into your diet every day, and you’ll be on your way to wellness.
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- Too much red meat and too few vegetables may increase your body’s biological age — Medical Xpress
- Study links frequent red meat consumption to high levels of chemical associated with heart disease — National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Even a low intake of red and processed meat may raise death risk — Medical News Today