Raw Meat with Rosemary

Meat Consumption & Health Risks

Why You Should Cut Back On Meat Part 2  

2021 July

Our first article, in the series, “Why You Should Cut Back On Meat”, looked closely at environmental impacts of industrial meat production and the acute wastage associated with it. In this segment, we dive into the long term health impacts of meat consumption

Studies have shown that long-term processed meat consumption can result in serious health complications, as it contains high amounts of additives & chemicals.

Switching to a plant-based diet is the single most important step that can help reduce the environmental effects of meat production and consumption. This, however, may not be realistic in low and middle-income countries where alternative protein sources are scarce. Furthermore, the facts and recommendations shared in this article do not apply to children and adolescents, who require a diversified high protein diet

1. Cancer 

The World Health Organization has identified processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans’, with the strongest evidence established for intestinal cancer. This is due to the formation of harmful compounds during meat production, processing, and preservation stages, resulting in pro-and anti-cancer chemical imbalances in the body.

Heavy  consumption of processed meat increases the chance of intestinal cancer. 

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The process of making sausage. Sausage included a lot of additive and chemical materials.

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 Interesting Facts 

2. Heart Disease 

Scientific evidence suggests links between processed meat consumption and heart disease. Consuming large quantities of red and processed meat long-term, especially beef, pork, lamb, etc, can cause cholesterol imbalances and obesity, mainly as a result of high concentrations of saturated fat present in these meat variants. These imbalances and obesity patterns, in turn, serve as high-risk factors for heart disease.

 

The most common cardiac complications seen in processed meat consumption are coronary heart disease (a condition where blood vessels supplying the heart are narrow or blocked), and high blood pressure. These phenomena can cause serious complications such as heart attack or stroke.

Intaking a high amount of processed meat will increases the chance of getting cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. 

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 Interesting Facts 

3. Diabetes 

In addition to the factors stated for heart disease above, harmful chemical formations during meat preservation stages contribute to insulin resistance in the body resulting in type 2 diabetes.

So how do we switch from meat to plant-heavy meals?

Cutting back on meat is a personal decision that is influenced by several factors. We believe that the existing scientific evidence is strong enough to warrant an individual response to switch to a plant-based diet. This can be done gradually, one step at a time, with any of the following suggestion: 

  • Simple weekly commitments such as “Meatless Mondays

  • Portion reduction by half, treating meat as a side dish rather than the main course

  • Limiting consumption to two times a week

  • Cut down on meat variety one at a time (for e.g. first reduce processed pork, followed by beef, then lamb, and so on…)

  • Explore alternative plant-based protein sources.

Substitute meat product foods with veggies and legumes . For example: Veggie strewer, Eggplant sandwiches. 

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Plant-based eating not only includes fruits and vegetables but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans, some of which we will be looking at in the next article of the series.

Embrace plant-based meals and join the ‘eat less meat’ movement - you get to better your health, and help Planet Earth as well! Stay tuned for more.

About the Author 

Eleleta Surafel

Eleleta is a medical graduate, who, inspired by the pandemic made a transition to public health practice, and found passion in delivering education on health impacts of environmental issues.

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