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News item: Study: Eating Red Meat Increases Risk Of Early Death [and Harms the Environment]

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13 comments, last: Jun-2-2009   Add a comment   Contributor:  TheTeam (Mar-24-2009)    Play a Video
Optimism: 3 Categories: Global Warming, Philosophical & Quality of Life, Sustainable Living

Red meat ... unsafe at high speedsEating red meat increases the chances of dying prematurely, according to a large federal study that offers powerful new evidence that a diet that regularly includes steaks, burgers and pork chops is hazardous to your health.

The study of more than 500,000 middle-age and elderly Americans found that those who consumed the equivalent of about a small hamburger every day were more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Sausage, cold cuts and other processed meats also increased the risk.

Previous research had found a link between red meat and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, but the new study is the first large examination of the relationship between eating meat and overall mortality.

"The bottom line is we found an association between red meat and processed meat and an increased risk of mortality," said Rashmi Sinha of the National Cancer Institute, who led the study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In contrast, routine consumption of fish, chicken, turkey and other poultry decreased the risk of death by a small amount, the study found.

Read the rest of the article

See original news item: Washington Post, Mar-23-2009  
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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Jun-2-2009)   Web site
Here is one organization whose purpose is to promote healthful calorie restriction. And this article has links to many other recent research studies on the topic.
  
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (May-30-2009)   

The "always hungry" is a misinterpretation of the data. The proper term is "restricted calories".
Animals that were on restricted calorie diets are healthier and live longer than animals that have free choice to eat as much as they want. It just means eating actual portions when you eat, rather than eating until you don't feel like eating any more.
It means planning a meal instead of supersizing it.
  
Comment by: City Worker (May-30-2009)   

I was thinking about this “always be hungry thing.” I believe I recall that weight loss experts often advise people to not wait until they are really hungry to eat. Otherwise, they will eat more than they would have otherwise. (Maybe this is somewhat related to people on diets gaining back more weight than they had lost. I am not sure.) Therefore, I think this “always be hungry” thing is a bit tricky, requires fine tuning and discipline and commitment, and goes contrary to what one would normally hear from weight loss guidance people.
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-29-2009)   Web site

I also heard that -- the only proven way to lengthen lifespan, so far, is to consume fewer calories (and, as you say, "be hungry all the time"). In my mind, it actually feels better to be a little hungry all the time, though not starved. Being overfed makes one feel sleepy and lazy, I know that on the occasions when I overindulge. In addition, eating healthy, fresh, varied foods always makes me feel more alive. I have to believe that kind of diet and a balanced way of life would also tend to increase lifespan, statistically speaking.
  
Comment by: City Worker (May-28-2009)   

I just saw, on TV, the other day, some things on how to maybe LENGHTEN one’s life! The two things are to be hungry all the time, and take resveratrol. I know at least one of these things was on the TV show, “60 Minutes.” It seems that it’s pretty certain that if one is hungry all the time, one may lengthen one’s life. Of course, one has to decide if one wants to be hungry all the time. There’s a trade-off. I didn’t catch how much one would prolong one’s life if one was hungry all the time, and how hungry one had to be. As for resveratrol, they said that it gave one the equivalent of 1,000 glasses of wine per day. It had anti-oxidants and other anti-aging things in it, I think. They tested it on rodents, and fed the rodents fatty foods. The rodents that got resveratrol didn’t get fat and were more active than the rodents that didn’t get resveratrol. I just went to the “60 Minutes” website and saw that resveratrol supposedly might help prevent heart attacks. I didn’t catch if the resveratrol actually increased the lifespan of the rodents. But, I don’t think they’ve proven to this date, that resveratrol works on humans.
  
Comment by: WhitneySegura (Whitney Segura) (May-28-2009)   Web site

Great post! I loved your picture of that meat, very interesting view you have here. I really like this post, it definitely gets one thinking about what exactly they are eating, lol! I look forward to some new cool posts like this one! Thanks, Whitney
  
Comment by:  gavinhudson (Mar-26-2009)   Web site

This is interesting. I'd heard about burnt meat being carcinogenic, but this puts another spin on the health effects of meat. Thanks.
  
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-25-2009)   

My point about cancer studies is that by the time someone gets cancer, they have led an entire life (childhood instances excluded) of eating processed foods or being exposed to the environmental toxins of industry and modern life (dioxins especially, from the use of plastics and pesticides).
Cancer studies are like life-extension studies: something that is not studying how we SHOULD be living, but studying how we DID live, and this is usually modified by economics in the mix.
Garrison Keillor wrote "People buy bibles to find out what is the will of God, only to find out that they already know what it is but would prefer not to."
This is what dietary studies are: biblical reading to pretend we are going to do something different. In actuality, we know what we should be eating and how we should be living (as part of the natural physical world but using our imagination to improve the quality of life), but we all prefer not to because it is hard. I am guilty as sin of this, myself. It is very hard to live naturally, and I've got a farm to do it on!
I remember a saying from my years of supervisory and military training that applies to how our society should make food and health policies: "If you want people to things the right way, you have to make the right way easier than the wrong way."
Too many policies try to make the wrong way harder (safety regulations) rather than make the right way easier (give dirt the same respect as priests and bankers).
When farmers can make a living based on what their local community needs and be satisfied with that, then we will have more farmers and fewer Systems and less processing and fewer mishaps which poison thousands of people at a time.
Fighting cancer by not eating red meat is like saving for retirement: it's a reward that is promised to pay off sometime after you are too old to enjoy it. Perhaps if we grew more local tomatoes and carrots that tasted good, people wouldn't seek out so much of the salt-laden fast food that they do, and they could enjoy the rewards of such efforts immediately, rather than saying "I'm avoiding red meat so I can live to be a burden on the health care system." They can say "I'm eating better food because I like it and I'm going to live to be a hundred and get shot by a jealous husband."
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-25-2009)   Web site

I partially agree with you, AG. I have not been able to find a link to the original study, yet (not sure it is online). I always wonder to what extent the many unnatural aspects of meat production affect such an outcome, whether it is pesticide consumption, growth hormones, stress in the animals, grain diet, sick animals, or the post-processing. It appears the study may not have distinguished between a Big Mac/Whopper vs a burger made at home from organically (using the term unofficially) raised beef. Not too many people butcher their own cows these days, so that would have been hard, but I would like to see a study distinguishing organic meat from standard factory-farm meat.

All that being said, other primary targets to explain this study include iron content in red meat (excess iron is known to cause heart problems), and high saturated fat content.

Personally, I have never been one to eat fast food. Occasionally, meaning once a year, a Wendy's fish sandwich, and Wendy's is probably the best of the fast food joints. Oh, and Taco Bell a few times a year, as my kids can eat it despite their food-sensitivity restricted diets.

AG, I fully agree that more thoughtful coverage of this study should have raised these questions of additives and effects of the factory-farm methods of meat production.

You did however focus on cancer -- all of the reporting I have seen has been accurate as far as it goes, stating that the study reports a higher rate of death, from all causes. The two major causes within that were cancer and heart disease.
  
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-25-2009)   

I didn't know where to post this, but I guess this is as good as any, Dave. It's a couple of years old, but I stumbled across it today:
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/71299/chad_heeter_breakfasting_on_valvoline
  
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-25-2009)   

I'd like to see the results when they factor in "eating red meat that you butcher yourself".
Pretty much eliminates the sample of people they used, I'm sure.
You see, people who butcher their own red meat aren't feeding grains to the animals as the main food.
I agree that everyone should eat less meat, and especially not eat CAFO-raised meat and dairy, but this obsession with cancer as the determining factor is WAY past what we should be evaluating for our nutritional needs. Many diseases that are used as the Big Scary Marketing stories (cancer, diabetes, alzheimers, CJD) can be prevented with proper micronutrients and caloric restriction.
The main issue is our consumption overall, based on Blind Faith in regulatory Systems of systems to keep us safe. Individuals need to be more active in their own lives (butcher their own animals, grow a garden, shop at farmers' markets), and they would be healthier, instead of praying to the golden arches every day that the meat is actually something that resembles meat.
You can't tell me that switching from cheeseburgers to McNuggets is going to keep people from getting heart attacks, but that's what this story implies to some extent.
Perhaps we should switch from "studies" to "lives", and stop taxing and corporatizing farms out of the hands of individual landholders by regulatory and educational institution monoculture. When was the last time you heard a career counselor at a high school or college recommend to a student, "You ought to go into farming."?
We have spent the last 100 years replacing the 'drudgery' of gardening and subsistence farming with petroleum-based methods. Now that the oil has polluted the air and destroyed those urban manufacturing 'jobs', there is no national awareness or activity which would put people back on the land to care for the soil and to feed their own needs (sunshine, microbiology, green plants, fresh foods, and yes, animal proteins and Omega 3 fats from grass-fed beef and free-range small animals) which evolved with us over millions of years.
Instead, even 'greenies' think that science will somehow outthink nature. Until science becomes actual science, and stops being an academic 'job', then it should yield to the wisdom of the land instead of trying to conquer it. Who benefits from this study?
The giant agribusiness marketing people will turn this study into yet another slogan to sell some pre-packaged 'nutrition' for 20 times the amount paid to the farm that grew the raw materials (You can't exactly call organic granola "food" any more than a McDonald's cheeseburger if it takes more petroleum/CO2 to package and ship and sell it).
  
Comment by: City Worker (Mar-24-2009)   

OK. Good, good. I think I am starting to be convinced that eating delicious hamburgers every day really might not be the best of ideas. But I’ve a question: can we say that red meat is really not good for everyone? Maybe it is good for young people. The study looked at middle-aged and elderly Americans, aged 50 to 71. I can't quite remember, but aren’t there some foods that are good for certain aged people but bad for other aged people? I think I remember something like breast milk is very high in fat content, which is good for newborns, although older individuals should not have food with that high a fat content.
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-24-2009)   Web site

This is one of the most important health studies in a long time. The increase in deaths in a ten year span from eating about 7 ounces of red meat daily (compared with eating a similar amount weekly) was 25% to 30%. Even more stark was the increase in death rate from eating processed meats, such as frankfurters, sausage, and pepperoni. Eating those even once per week had a significant effect in increasing the death rate. Scientists are not sure of the specific mechanisms involved for this increased risk of death.

Since cutting back on meat is also great for the global environment (less use of grains inefficiently growing meat; less excrement running off into streams, less methane production...) there are quite a few reasons to reduce or stop eating red meat. Chicken and fish were found to be positive, however, unlike red meat. They were not the direct subjects of this study, however.

  
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About contributor Member: TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team) TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team)

Member: TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team) The volunteers of PlanetThoughts.org are happy to give you their best selection of news, opinion, reviews, stories, quotes, tips, and more. We hope you enjoy the reading... and thinking. Thanks!

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