In case you’re wondering if eating a plant-based diet is worth it, take a look at a long-term study by the Harvard School of Public Health. The study links eating red meat and the risk of death from cancer and heart disease. Not surprisingly, the more red meat you eat the higher the risk of death from cancer heart disease.
It is tempting to classify this study as “junk science” because it is neither fish, nor fowl or even red meat. The role of diet is much more than complex than measuring just meat consumption. But even given its limitations, it still points out how negatively an animal based diet affects health and longevity.
Most media outlets framed the results in terms of an increase in death for red meat eaters. I think they missed the really important point: If you eat whole grains and nuts you reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and cancer by 14-19%!
The long Harvard School of Public Health abstract about the study concludes that:
One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality . . .Replacing one serving of total red meat with one serving of a healthy protein source was associated with a lower mortality risk: 7% for fish, 10% for legumes, 10% for low-fat dairy products, 14% for poultry, 14% for whole grains and 19% for nuts. The researchers estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented at the end of the follow-up if all the participants had consumed less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat.
The study followed 121,000 people over 28 years. All of these people were healthy with no cancer or heart disease evident at the beginning of the study. Every four years, participants were questioned about health and diet. Deaths, causes of death and diseases diagnosed were tabulated along with diet information.
Other interesting factoids include:
- Each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12% greater risk of dying over all
- Each daily increase of three ounces of red meat created a 6 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10% greater risk of cancer death
- the kind of red meat you eat matters. Processed meats like bacon increase the risk from 16% to 21% over all
- If participants had eaten just 1/2 the amount of meat their combined risk would have been lowered by about 8.5%
One more piece of evidence that eating a whole food plant-based diet reduces chronic disease and risk of death.