Not trying to be a bitchy vegan, and in no way saying I told you so, but a new Harvard study following the lives of 110,100 adults over 20 years shows that even a small amount of unprocessed red meat can lower your life expectancy by 13%. That's UNPROCESSED. For processed red meat it jumps to 20%. I don't know about you, but even I am surprised by that - but not shocked.
The study also compared the effects of replacing a serving of red meat with different protein rich alternatives:
Eating a serving of nuts instead of beef or pork was associated with a 19% lower risk of dying during the study. The team said choosing poultry or whole grains as a substitute was linked with a 14% reduction in mortality risk; low-fat dairy or legumes, 10%; and fish, 7%.
And before you try to blame the American lifestyle of no exercise and processed food from multiple sources that are not red meat:
People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.
I'm not here to preach, and I am no scientist or doctor, but I do have plenty of personal experience of a life before and after red meat, both with my own diet and the diets of people close to me.
I'm from about as far south in Missouri as you can get and our diet is rather stereotypical. My grandma cooks bacon every morning and white gravy from the drippings. There is an old butter tub on the counter that is filled with bacon fat and it serves as the primary seasoning in almost every vegetable dish. It was delicious - and I was a very fat child.
When I first went vegetarian in high school within three months I'd dropped 50lbs and eight inches off my waist. It also required me to learn how to cook. My family just didn't get it at first. My mom made a normal night's meal of Chicken Helper and said I could just pick the chicken out. I told her it didn't work like that so she opened some canned vegetables - and threw in a tablespoon of pork fat.
But she learned and so did I. Soon I was making dinner most nights and she would make meat as a side. They saw how it had transformed by body and respected it.
I stayed a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I still ate eggs and dairy) until my sophomore year of college. My diet had switch to mostly dinning hall food since I had no place to cook - and even in a college town in Missouri, my options were usually limited to cheese pizza, pasta, and cheese sandwiches. I packed some weight back on, but it was when I suddenly contracted the chickenpox (yes - I never had them until college) that my immune system took a nose dive and the doctors advised me to incorporate meat back into my diet.
I did, and my cloths quickly because too tight. And to make it even more extreme, I tried Atkins to shrink back. It just made me feel disgusting.
About six months into my move to DC I switched back to vegetarian and my weight improved, but it was when I made a New Years resolution to try vegan for a month that I saw the biggest change in my life. I lost 25lbs - and it has stayed off for three years now. I was always a yo-yo dieter, but I am the thinest and healthiest I have ever been. I don't plan on going back.
One year into my veganism, my partner David decided to give it a try. A doctor's visit a few months before came with a warning that his cholesterol was way to high, especially for someone only 30 years old. He went cold turkey (or tofurkey) from meat to vegan, and by three months in, 30lbs were gone. The next doctor's visited - everything was back to a healthy level.
Two months ago my dad was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He was not incredibly over weight, but he lives in Memphis and the BBQ is ubiquitous. He was shocked into making a drastic lifestyle change. He has shifted to a diet mostly of vegetables, beans, and whole grains. He still eats lean protein and the occasional steak, but he has dropped two waste sizes and his blood sugar has completely stabilized.
These are examples of why vegetarian/vegan is something everyone should care about - whether you care about animal cruilty or not. Hopefully this study plants that idea deeper into the American psyche. We all have out vices, but just cutting out meat one night a week might give you a few more years to enjoy them.