Animal Vs. Vegetable Protein – Which Could Kill You?

People seem to have the beef with meat (yes, pun fully intended) over the past few years. From discoveries that you could eventually get cancer from consuming processed meats to “experts” telling you that it’s healthier to eat more lean meats like fish, or to turn vegan, being a fan of red meat fan seems like something of a diet sin. Unfortunately, the news does not seem any brighter.

Following a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, it is possible that having a higher intake of animal protein can lead to a higher mortality rate than those who consume mostly vegetables.  Mingyang Song, MD, ScD, a research fellow in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit (CTEU) and Division of Gastroenterology, headed the study and stated that while there have been previous studies held to explain how an intake of carbohydrates could lead to better health than protein, it’s not necessarily better.

Song pointed out that previous studies were done based on only a few people’s health profiles and their diets were not tracked over a long period. To add, these studies also didn’t focus on what people actively ate, which is also important in determining their health.

To get more concrete results, Song’s study was based on patient records from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), which have recorded data from over 170,000 since 1980. They also have been keeping a record of patients’ diets and health by checking in on them every four years.

By analysing 30 years of data from the NHS records and 26 years from the HPFS documents, researchers discovered something that shocked them – about 9,000 of the subjects had died of cardiovascular disease while 13,000 died from cancer and about 14,000 from other causes.

Of course, this wasn’t all from what they ate, but they were able to determine that, excluding lifestyle and any outside factors, there was a higher mortality rate for those who consumed more animal-based protein than those who consumed more veggies.

The results of the study also proved that the higher mortality from animal protein was mostly a result of people who had, at least one unhealthy habit in their lifestyle. The cause could be anything from obesity to a drinking problem; participants who led a healthy lifestyle ran less of a risk compared to that. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Nonetheless, there were a few more specific factors that allowed the study to differ. Among the people with a higher mortality rate, there was also a strong correlation between the type of meat they ate and their health. Individuals who ate more processed red meat had a higher mortality rate as opposed to people who consumed mostly chicken and fish.

The results of this study are still being carried out, but it is interesting to see how science confirms something that a lot of people have assumed. However, do you don’t need to say goodbye to that burger. Instead, this research only drives home the point that a balanced diet should be made with more wholesome foods instead of processed ones as well as to have a higher percentage of vegetables rather than meat.


Photo Credits: The Oddyssey Online, The New York Times/ Well, Noticias Agropecuarias

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