Vegetarians and vegans have often proudly boasted about their increased energy levels and abundant health. Some even look healthy and vibrant to seemingly prove their claims of a plant-based diet being the secret to youth and vitality. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine Journal might just give vegans and vegetarians added scientific support for their lifestyles.
Researchers claim that vegans have substantially lower death rates than their meat-eating counterparts. In fact, for every three percent of someone's diet that they consumed from plant-based protein, they could expect to reduce their death rate by ten percent. The risk of heart disease was decreased even more, going down twelve percent for every ten percent of the diet consumed in plants exclusively.
With so much conflicting nutritional advice floating around the Internet, the new study makes a strong case for decreasing meat consumption, even if you don't go 'fully vegan.'
Why? The researchers also discovered that by raising the share of animal protein in one's diet by just 10 percent, it led to a two percent higher risk of death from all causes. This increased to an eight percent higher chance of dying from heart disease. The research was conducted by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, who monitored the health and diet records of more than 130,000 people over the course of thirty years.
If reducing animal proteins is so good for us, why do paleo and other meat eaters feel differently?
Advocates of the paleo diet at least have part of the equation right. The paleo movement is about consuming foods in the same way that our prehistoric ancestors did, which means taking away all the processed foods, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup and several other foods that make us unhealthy. The paleo diet also doesn't rely on any sort of grains, and rightly so, since about 90 percent of the 'grains' used in the Standard American Diet are highly processed from an industrialized food chain.
Meat, vegetables, fruits and some nuts and seeds would make up most of a paleo diet, then. For vegans and vegetarians, we go one step further, and we take away the meat. There are many reasons people believe that eating meat isn't good for humans, and even researchers from Harvard have concluded that reducing red meat can vastly improve our health, but why?
Here are some concrete reasons to at least curb your meat intake if you don't move toward going completely vegetarian or vegan:
- A compound found in red meat (and even used as an additive in some energy drinks) called carnitine has been found to cause atherosclerosis, the hardening or clogging of the arteries, according to a study published in the journal, Nature Medicine.
- Most of the meat consumed in the world is highly processed, just like other ‘convenience’ foods. The meat industry uses a meat additive that contains leftover meat that is heated, spun in a machine to remove the fat, and then treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. This pink slime, as it is known, is then added back to the meat you purchase in most grocery stores. The meat industry hides how unsavory this is by calling it “lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).” 70 percent of the meat sold in stores, in fact, contains pink slime.
- Add to this horrendous practice the fact that poultry is the number one source of food-borne illnesses, often infected with salmonella bacteria, and almost 30% of all pork products are contaminated with toxoplasmosis. Mad Cow and Foot and Mouth Disease are only the beginning of the diseases we are exposed to when we consume most meat products.
- A large number of cattle, chickens, pigs and other agricultural animals are fed genetically modified feed, which has been shown to cause cancerous tumors, reproductive issues and organ failure.
- The Committee for Responsible Medicine has stated that vegetarians are 25 to 50 percent less likely to get cancer.
- Most people agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty, yet nearly 10 billion animals on farms in the U.S. alone suffer from conditions that consumers would never accept if they were truly informed about them. An estimated 70 percent of deforestation in the rare Amazon basin is attributed to cattle ranching. Approximately 450,000 square kilometers of deforested Amazon in Brazil are now in cattle pasture. This is equal to the loss of Amazonian forest, which equals the size of the entire state of Washington. This is the single largest reason that the Amazonian Region is losing its trees, along with an unthinkable level of biodiversity.
- Some argue that human beings were never meant to efficiently digest meat. Most meat-eaters have an intestinal tract that is only 3 times the length of their bodies so that meat exits quickly after protein or any other nutrients can be extracted. This was it does not sit in the bowels and start to decay. Most herbivores, including humans have intestinal tracts that are 10 to 12 times their body length, which means that substances like meat are easily trapped in nooks and crannies in our meandering bowels, and can putrefy causing disease.
- Cultures around the world that have been studied due to their ability to support a lifespan beyond the age of 100 have revealed an interesting fact. They rarely, if ever, eat meat. These cultures have been called ‘Blue Zones’ for their astounding average lifespans, some reaching into the ages of 120 or even 140. These include Indians of the mountains of Peru, the island inhabitants of Okinawa, Japan and the Abkhasia in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia.
- Add the aforementioned research from the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal, and you’ll be looking at a longer lifespan by reducing your meat intake.
While we may miss a few important vitamins and minerals from choosing not to eat meat, these nutrients can easily be supplemented, and what we gain in health is more than worth it.