A recent study came to the alarming conclusion that all red meat is bad for you—as in, any amount, any kind, will increase your risk of dying. The study conducted over 20 years, found that eating just three ounces of meat a day increases your risk of dying by 13 percent—and that number increases to 20 percent if that meat is processed, like hot dogs or bacon.
It’s clear from research that forgoing meat can improve health. “Vegetarianism can be used as a way to combat many conditions that plague boomers: heart disease, Type 2diabetes, obesity. We now know, for example, that such a diet can lower your blood pressure,” says Boston University registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake, citing numerous recent studies.
In an article published in 2005, Susan Berkow, a certified nutrition specialist, and physician Neal Barnard analyzed 11 observational studies and found that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than meat-eaters. The reasons behind this are not well understood. According to the authors (both of whom are affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes a vegetarian diet), probably one of the most important is the generally lower body weight of vegetarians due to the abundance of fiber in their diets, which causes them to feel full faster and helps with insulin control.
Since the risk of death from a stroke in middle age rises significantly as blood pressure rises, it is no surprise that vegetarians tend to face fewer cardiovascular issues than the rest of us. In an article published in April in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Harvard researchersfound that the more red meat you usually consume, the more likely you are to succumb to heart disease. Adding three ounces of meat to your daily diet (above what you normally eat) elevates the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 16 percent. For processed meat (think sausages and bacon), the numbers are even more striking: Increasing consumption by one serving a day — that would be just one more hot dog — elevates the long-term risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 21 percent.
Beyond damaging your heart, researchers tend to agree, eating red meat increases the risk of colorectal and other cancers. Similarly, a 2004 investigation by researchers from the Harvard Medical School found that middle-aged and older women who ate red meat more than five times a week had a 29 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who indulged in it less than once per week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that in 2010 almost 27 percent of Americans over the age of 65 had diabetes.
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