Is there anything we can eat that’s both satisfying and good for us? This week alone I’ve seen no less than three stories on the food-and-health newswire warning of increased risk of early death from eating common, every-day foods we all know and love. The answer seems to be to turn Vegetarian…
I feel a little beaten up by the scientific community over my mindful but definite preference for Animal Proteins over Vegetarian alternatives. It’s just the way I was brought up. And I am beginning to branch out in my cooking and consuming habits following the old, reliable Grain + Legume = Complete Dietary Protein rule. But to be told three times in a matter of days that I’m going to die earlier than I otherwise might because I like Red Meat and the occasional feast of Fried Chicken rubs me a little raw. Still, there must be something to it, if so many learned researchers are saying it’s so.
Red Meat is downright evil…
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland data-mined statistics generated by a national health and wellness study based on the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) which analysed the dietary habits of approximately 2,600 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 at the onset of the study in 1984-1989. The researchers studied the mortality profile of the study population over an average follow-up of 20 years. The results were alarming.
Men eating a diet rich in meat (Red Meat in particular), i.e. more than 200 grams per day, had a 23 percent greater risk of death during the follow-up than men whose intake of meat was less than 100 g / 3.5 oz. per day. In Finland, the current daily intake of Meat Proteins is around 17.6 oz / 500 g. That sounded pretty reasonable to me – until I realized that an average Striploin Streak is about 8 oz. / 226 g, a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder is 4 oz. / 113 g, and an average Chicken Breast is about 6 oz. / 170 g. Now, take into account that the current recommended serving size for Animal Protein in North America is roughly defined as a slice that would cover he palm of your hand, and you’re back to 4 oz. / 113 g again. Times three (for three meals a day) that equals about 12 oz. / 339 g. So, if we follow the official recommendations, we should be in pretty good shape – compared to Finnish men aged 62 – 80.
Ditch Red Meat for Heart Health…
The study included data from 36 randomized controlled trials involving 1,803 participants. The researchers compared people who ate diets with red meat with people who ate more of other types of foods (i.e. chicken, fish, carbohydrates, or plant proteins such as legumes, soy, or nuts), looking at blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and blood pressure – all risk factors for CVD, the leading cause of death worldwide.
Diets that substituted Plant Proteins for Red Meats were found to lower the study participants’ cholesterol (both ‘good’ and ‘bad’) as well as triglycerides, which are also closely associated with heart disease. But researchers cautioned that simply removing or reducing Red Meat in your diet is not sufficient.
“Asking ‘Is red meat good or bad?’ is useless,” says Dr. Meir Stampfer, Senior Author of the study. “It has to be ‘Compared to what?’ […] If you replace red meat with healthy Plant Protein sources like Nuts and Beans, you get a health benefit.”
Stampfer and his colleagues recommend adherence to healthy Vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets, both for their health benefits and to promote environmental sustainability.
Other Meats are just as bad if Fried…
Seems it doesn’t matter what kind of Animal Protein you eat: if it’s fried, it’s all bad for you.
A team of U.S. researchers data mined questionnaire information to assess the diets of 106,966 women, aged 50 to 79, who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) between 1993-1998 and who were followed up to February 2017.
They found that 31,588 deaths occurred over the follow-up period, including 9,320 heart-related deaths 8,358 cancer deaths and 13,880 from other causes.
Analysis revealed that, overall, those subjects who ate at least one serving of Fried Food per day had an average 8 percent higher risk from death from all causes – but particularly from heart disease. Fried Chicken and Fish and Chips got the worst rap from researchers showing that consumption of one or more servings per day of those foods translated to a 13 percent higher risk of early death.
“Reducing the consumption of fried foods, especially Fried Chicken and Fried Fish/Shellfish, may have clinically meaningful impact across the public health spectrum,” the study concludes.
Well, there’s good news in there, too. I mean, who eats fried foods every day? Oops… I forgot the folks who have Bacon and Eggs every morning! But they are becoming fewer and farther between as time goes on. Still, there’s that Egg and Sausage Breakfast Sandwich… Anyway, I think it’s safe to say the most of us don’t fall into the high-danger category, courting early death from Fried Foods. The exception would be those folks who partake of restaurant and takeout meals several times a week. Fortunately for me, I can’t afford that.
~ Maggie J.