Illustrative photo by Pexels.
Illustrative photo by Pexels..

Bloomberg cited the report saying that one of the most effective ways to tackle emissions, they said, is reducing red meat consumption. Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from meat and dairy livestock. The report said per-capita emissions from beef consumption rose 5.5% from 2000 to 2017.

The authors identified a 54% rise in heat-related deaths in older people in the last 20 years, and a record 2.9 billion additional days of heatwave exposure affecting those over 65 in 2019 — almost twice the previous high. They also found that deaths from excess red meat consumption have risen 70% in the last three decades, with the majority of the almost 1 million annual deaths occurring in Western Pacific regions such as China, Korea and Australia.

“It’s really important that we’re taking into account the production and consumption of emissions, in the same way we do for other sectors,” said Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown, a study that looks at a wide range of issues linking climate change and health. “The outsourcing of emissions to other countries to those who buy them in, and then the risks around that in terms of diet change.”

A Meat-rich diet could increase the risk for early death

Finnish scientists gathered dietary and health data on 2,641 men ages 42 to 60, following them for an average of 22 years. Over the course of the study, 1,225 of them died, the New York Times cited.

Compared with men who ate less than 2.6 ounces, or 76 grams, of meat a day (red meat, white meat, and organ meat combined), those who ate more than a half-pound (251 grams) daily were 23 percent more likely to die. The study is in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Eat Less Beef or Red Meat for a Longer Life
Eat Less Beef or Red Meat for a Longer Life

Higher intakes of protein were not significantly associated with an increased risk for premature death, except among those with serious disease. And consumption of the proteins in fish, eggs, dairy food, and plants did not affect mortality.

But, the researchers found, the higher the ratio of meat protein to plant protein, the greater the risk for early death.

The study controlled for dozens of demographic, lifestyle, health, and dietary characteristics, including income, history of health problems, and specific foods consumed.

Cutting red meat - Harvard Health

A team of Harvard researchers looked for statistical links between meat consumption and cause of death. The populations scrutinized included about 84,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 38,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

People in the study who ate the most red meat tended to die younger, and to die more often from cardiovascular disease and cancer. These people also tended to weigh more, exercise less, smoke tobacco more, and drink more alcohol than healthier people in the study. Yet even when the researchers compensated for the effects of unhealthy lifestyle, mortality and meat remained associated.

After 28 years, nearly 24,000 people in these two studies died from cardiovascular disease or cancer. How much and what kind of meat did they eat while they were alive?

Using questionnaires, the scientists asked the people in the study to estimate how many servings of meat they consumed. Unprocessed red meat included beef, pork, lamb, and hamburger at serving sizes of 3 ounces, or a portion about the size of a deck of playing cards.

Processed meat included bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, bologna, and other processed items. Two slices of bacon represented 1 serving; so did one slice of cold cuts.

The study determined that each additional daily serving of red meat increased risk of death by 13%. The impact rose to 20% if the serving was processed, as in food items like hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts.

What does a 13% increased "risk of mortality" (for each additional serving of unprocessed red meat) mean for an individual? Dr. Walter Willett, a senior scientist on the team and the chair of the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests this way of looking at the study results:

"If someone is age 60 and has a 50% chance of dying in the next 25 years, adding one serving a day would increase his risk of dying in that time to about 57%, and if he had two servings a day, this would be about a 63% risk of dying in that time."

In other words, the effects of unhealthy foods are relative to where you start, and eating red meat—the study shows—comes with a mortality tax. But there is also a hefty mortality dividend to cutting back on red meat. Consuming less than half a serving (1.5 ounces) per day of red meat could have prevented about one in 10 premature deaths in men in the study.

How does red meat affect health?

Eating red meat may increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease or cancer, according to Medical News Today.

Specialists usually classify red meat as muscle meat from beef, pork, lamb, goat, or other land mammals.

The health effects of red meat consumption are detectable only in the largest groups, researchers concluded, and advice to individuals to cut back may not be justified by available data.Credit...Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The health effects of red meat consumption are detectable only in the largest groups, researchers concluded, and advice to individuals to cut back may not be justified by available data.Credit...Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

On one hand, red meat is a good source of certain nutrients, especially vitamin B-12 and iron. The human body needs these nutrients to produce new red blood cells.

Red meat is also high in protein, which is necessary for building muscle, bone, other tissues, and enzymes.

However, some research has linked regular consumption of red meat to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers, kidney problems, digestive issues, and mortality.

To further complicate the issue, some studies suggest that the type of red meat a person eats makes the most difference.

Leaner cuts of unprocessed red meat, such as sirloin steaks or pork tenderloin, may be more healthful than other types. This is because they are unprocessed and do not contain excess salt, fat, or preservatives.

Processed red meats — including bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, and similar meats — appear to carry the highest risk of health problems.

Heart disease and saturated fat

Eat Less Beef or Red Meat for a Longer Life

Many different studies have suggested that eating red meat regularly can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. For years, experts have believed that the link between red meat consumption and heart disease is due to the saturated fat that is present in red meat.

The American Heart Association (AHA) claim that red meats generally have more saturated fat than other sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, or legumes.

They suggest that eating high amounts of saturated fat and any amount of trans fat can raise a person’s cholesterol levels and increase their risk of heart disease. They therefore recommend that people limit the amount of red meat they eat and encourage people to choose lean cuts of meat.

That being said, red meat is not the primary source of trans fats in the Western diet. Packaged, processed, and fried foods tend to contain the most.

The AHA also explain that beans and legumes are heart-healthy alternative sources of protein. Examples include:

• pinto beans

• kidney beans

• garbanzo beans, or chickpeas

• soybeans

• lentils, split peas, and black eyed peas

A meta-analysis in the journal Circulation looked at 36 different studies. It concluded that replacing red meat with high quality plant protein sources — but not low quality carbohydrates — led to “more favorable” concentrations of fat in the blood.

The meta-analysis also found that there were not significant improvements in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, or blood pressure between the red meat and animal protein diet groups.

Other studies have questioned the notion that saturated fat has links with heart disease. The authors of a review of heart disease risk state that researchers have exaggerated the role of saturated fat in the development of heart disease.

Also, a team of cardiologists wrote an article stating that the consumption of saturated fat does not clog the arteries or increase the risk of heart disease. Another article says that numerous analyses and reviews do not support the notion that eating saturated fat has links with heart disease.

All things considered, there is evidence both for and against saturated fats playing a role in heart disease. Research is ongoing.

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