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Ce'nedra

Health risk: eating meat good or bad?

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Lately, there's been so much talk about vegetarianism and whatnot that I just had to ask: is it better (ie healthier) to embrace meat or to give it the boot?

Ok to first get this out of the way, I love my steak so I don't think I'll be turning 'green' any time soon :raz:

Another thing, I've always thought that eating meat/seafood/whatever was good for you (of course within reasonable quantities) because it provides you with the beneficial nutrients that are necessary for the human body.

However, nowadays it's deemed as 'evil' ( :sad: ) by many because it leads to several types of cancer, heart disease, etc.

On the other hand, I also hear that being a vegetarian your whole life could lead to an abscence of essential nutrients that you NEED thus leading to frailness.

So what's the real answer? Is it better for your body to eat some meat or to entirely erase it from your diet?

(I'm hoping it's not the latter...)


Edited by Ce'nedra (log)

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The Japanese know the answer from our own experience.

In the 30s of Showa (1955 to 1964), we ate more fish than meat.

In the 50s of Showa (1975 to 1984), we ate about equal amoutns of fish and meat.

And, now, we eat more meat than fish, and we have become less healthy.

In Japan, meals in and around 50s of Showa are said to be ideal.

Everyone needs all three, meat, fish, and vegetables.

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Hiroyuki: Thanks for that bit of info :) What about the Okinawans? I hear they are the longest-living Japanese. I'd like to know what's their secret -do people in that region eat little meat? Alot of it? etc?

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But look at Gascony, where they traditionally ate plenty of meat, most of it cooked with liberal amounts of goose and duck fat - they have the highest life expectancy in France and one of the highest in europe.

I don't think it is that simple.

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I learned an important lesson from my father when he taught me, "Anything in moderation." It is not just the duration of life that is important, but the quality. If you like meat and have the wherewithal, eat meat. If you like it and don't have the wherewithal, eat it when you can. If you don't like it, don't eat it. Life is already too short with too many other things that can cut it even shorter to worry about it.

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Based on your second question, which is more specific "So what's the real answer? Is it better for your body to eat some meat or to entirely erase it from your diet?", the commonsense answer would be that eating "some" meat is better for you. The question is how much of course. But vegetarians are prone to making inflated claims about the health and moral benefits of their chosen diet, though a few important matters are conveniently forgotten:

a) As a group they are more likely to pay attention to dietary health matters than the vastly more numerous and broadly based omnivorous population.

b) Vegetarians (for non-religious reasons) are quite likely in 2, 5, 10, or so years to abandon their diet and return to being omnivores. The likelihood of this happening is significantly higher than that an omnivore becomes a vegetarian, even temporarily. As such, any figures on vegetarian longevity strike me as a bit shaky. Most vegetarians I encounter are young to early-middle....actually, scratch that, they're usually just young, and in more cases than not, spent their lives into their teenage years eating meat. Lifelong or very aged vegetarians are a rarer breed, though I stress again that I do not include religious vegetarians here. As such, I don't set much store by any blanket claim that a "vegetarian" diet is "healthier".

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Based on your second question, which is more specific "So what's the real answer? Is it better for your body to eat some meat or to entirely erase it from your diet?", the commonsense answer would be that eating "some" meat is better for you. The question is how much of course. But vegetarians are prone to making inflated claims about the health and moral benefits of their chosen diet, though a few important matters are conveniently forgotten:

a) As a group they are more likely to pay attention to dietary health matters than the vastly more numerous and broadly based omnivorous population.

b) Vegetarians (for non-religious reasons) are quite likely in 2, 5, 10, or so years to abandon their diet and return to being omnivores. The likelihood of this happening is significantly higher than that an omnivore becomes a vegetarian, even temporarily. As such, any figures on vegetarian longevity strike me as a bit shaky. Most vegetarians I encounter are young to early-middle....actually, scratch that, they're usually just young, and in more cases than not, spent their lives into their teenage years eating meat. Lifelong or very aged vegetarians are a rarer breed, though I stress again that I do not include religious vegetarians here. As such, I don't set much store by any blanket claim that a "vegetarian" diet is "healthier".

Maybe I can comment on this.

Around the time when I was born, my mother decided that, for idealistic reasons, she wanted to turn a vegetarian. As a result, I was raised as one and spent the first 25 years of my life without ever even so much as touching a piece of meat, or fish for that matter. Was I healthy? Well, yes, to a certain degree, but also highly obese. When I started eating meat, I simultaneously started losing weight, without any other changes to my diet. I lost around 40 kilo's (90 lbs...?) in the course of 18 months. On top of that, I have not suffered from head colds, flu or even migraine attacks as often as before.

Now for my mother, who spent the same 25 years as a vegetarian, the last 25 years of her life. She suffered TWO types of cancer, she didn't survive. Died before she turned 60.

So, does not eating meat for an extended period of time make you live longer and healthier persé?

I'm not so sure.

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Based on your second question, which is more specific "So what's the real answer? Is it better for your body to eat some meat or to entirely erase it from your diet?", the commonsense answer would be that eating "some" meat is better for you. The question is how much of course. But vegetarians are prone to making inflated claims about the health and moral benefits of their chosen diet, though a few important matters are conveniently forgotten:

a) As a group they are more likely to pay attention to dietary health matters than the vastly more numerous and broadly based omnivorous population.

b) Vegetarians (for non-religious reasons) are quite likely in 2, 5, 10, or so years to abandon their diet and return to being omnivores. The likelihood of this happening is significantly higher than that an omnivore becomes a vegetarian, even temporarily. As such, any figures on vegetarian longevity strike me as a bit shaky. Most vegetarians I encounter are young to early-middle....actually, scratch that, they're usually just young, and in more cases than not, spent their lives into their teenage years eating meat. Lifelong or very aged vegetarians are a rarer breed, though I stress again that I do not include religious vegetarians here. As such, I don't set much store by any blanket claim that a "vegetarian" diet is "healthier".

You raise some VERY good points. I'll keep that in mind.

And I agree with everyone here, I'm sure that it's not simply a case of eating habits. As we all know, we have to take into account exercise and your physical fitness (unfortunately :rolleyes: ).

And docsconz, I agree, I think the quote "everything in moderation" should apply to everything in general.

I suppose there's no real proof as of yet to my question huh? Oh well. It's not like I will ever cut out my meat intake entirely anyway :raz:

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Maybe I can comment on this.

Around the time when I was born, my mother decided that, for idealistic reasons, she wanted to turn a vegetarian. As a result, I was raised as one and spent the first 25 years of my life without ever even so much as touching a piece of meat, or fish for that matter. Was I healthy? Well, yes, to a certain degree, but also highly obese. When I started eating meat, I simultaneously started losing weight, without any other changes to my diet. I lost around 40 kilo's (90 lbs...?) in the course of 18 months. On top of that, I have not suffered from head colds, flu or even migraine attacks as often as before.

Now for my mother, who spent the same 25 years as a vegetarian, the last 25 years of her life. She suffered TWO types of cancer, she didn't survive. Died before she turned 60.

So, does not eating meat for an extended period of time make you live longer and healthier persé?

I'm not so sure.

Sorry to hear about your mum :sad:

Wow you have some very interesting experiences. I guess there's no black or white answer to this. Everyone's lifestyles and genetics are all so different that it's impossible to say...

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Hiroyuki: Thanks for that bit of info :) What about the Okinawans? I hear they are the longest-living Japanese. I'd like to know what's their secret -do people in that region eat little meat? Alot of it? etc?

They eat more pork than other Japanese, and eat the most kombu and tofu.

It should be noted that Okinawan females still enjoy the highest logenvity in Japan, but Okinawan males ranked 26th in 2005.

Anyway, the key to good health is to eat everything in moderation, meat, fish, vegetables, beans, seasweed, etc. at least in Japan.

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They eat more pork than other Japanese, and eat the most kombu and tofu.

It should be noted that Okinawan females still enjoy the highest logenvity in Japan, but Okinawan males ranked 26th in 2005.

Never been to Okinawa, but let me guess. Awamori and cigarettes?

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I went vegetarian for a long time. I just never felt GOOD. My ex, on the other hand, absolutely thrived. My cholesterol went so low Kaiser actually flagged my blood tests so they could figure out what was wrong.

When I added a LITTLE meat protein back into my diet, I felt worlds better.

I really think it's an individual thing. Listen to your body.

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If you exercise regularily it is important to get enough protein, which is hard to do without meat. Vegetarians will tell you that you can get enough through beans, tofu, etc. but if you look up the protein levels of beans and meat, you will see meat is much, much higher.

Another issue is that when I was vegetarian I consumed tons of cheese and dairy, and my cravings went way down when I started eating meat. I see a lot of vegetarians eating a lot of cheese which is not exactly healthy.

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The Japanese know the answer from our own experience.

In the 30s of Showa (1955 to 1964), we ate more fish than meat...

Unfortunately, nowadays when the wisdom of this model has been embraced around the world, we have to weigh the health benefits with both the environmental hazards of fish farms and the danger of depleting supplies of creatures we call "seafood". High cost and shopping habits also serve as deterrents.
b) Vegetarians (for non-religious reasons) are quite likely in 2, 5, 10, or so years to abandon their diet and return to being omnivores. The likelihood of this happening is significantly higher than that an omnivore becomes a vegetarian, even temporarily. As such, any figures on vegetarian longevity strike me as a bit shaky.

Paul McCartney is older than 64 now. Jack Lalanne is hip again--I don't know if he's returned to a strict vegetarian diet. I imagine there will be more subjects to study in the decades ahead. At least, I know more than a handful of vegetarians who have stuck w their restricted diets since the 70s or 80s.

It's interesting that Ohba excludes religious factors. Vegetarians who remain so tend to have strong ideological reasons for their diets, even if they're based on environmental factors, cultural identity or in some cases, a strong commitment to physical fitness as opposed to a vague notion of health benefits.

If you exercise regularily it is important to get enough protein, which is hard to do without meat.  Vegetarians will tell you that you can get enough through beans, tofu, etc. but if you look up the protein levels of beans and meat, you will see meat is much, much higher. 

True, but not impossible. Click link for more general information about protein.

I understand the idea that combining beans w corn to make a more complete protein has been questioned. Yet, there are certain combinations that are supposed to enhance protein content such as beans and whole grains. Peanut butter alone does not have a lot of protein, but if you also drink a glass of milk, your body benefits from the amino acids peanuts lack.

I'm an omnivore, but still find getting enough protein my only dietary concern beyond consuming too many calories from fat. I usually prefer using meat to flavor a dish. When I have a craving, I respond, but lately have been buying beef maybe five times a year if that.

As far as fat vegetarians go, there's a relevant line in "Seduced, and Abandoned" (Pietro Germi). The narrator describes the Sicilian patriarch's enormous stomach in terms of the obesity of the poor who fill up on bread, pasta and rice. That's what many vegetarians do, especially when they don't really care much for produce or cooking.

I wonder how the percentages would compare were separate surveys taken of omnivores and vegetarians to determine who loves and eats a variety of produce.

One of the reasons health professionals sometimes advocate vegetarian diets is due to the high percentage of cholesterol and fat carnivores eat. Another is the desire to see us eat a greater variety and quantity of fruits and vegetables.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

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I learned an important lesson from my father when he taught me, "Anything in moderation." It is not just the duration of life that is important, but the quality. If you like meat and have the wherewithal, eat meat. If you like it and don't have the wherewithal, eat it when you can. If you don't like it, don't eat it. Life is already too short with too many other things that can cut it even shorter to worry about it.

Absolutely. My sister, a nurse, once took care of a woman who had a chronic disease. Because of that, she could not have surgery to remove a problem gallbladder. And every few months, she was hospitalized with a gallbladder attack. And my sister's first question, every time the woman was admitted, was "What did you eat this time?" The answer was always fried chicken, or steak, or something like that. And to the second question, "Well, was it worth it?" the answer was always YES.

The woman was dead within a year.

She was hit by a truck.

On the whole, eat healthy -- lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat anything less healthy in moderation. Have a good time. Do good things for others. Be several people's best friend, and be several children's biggest champion. None of us will live forever.

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They eat more pork than other Japanese, and eat the most kombu and tofu.

It should be noted that Okinawan females still enjoy the highest logenvity in Japan, but Okinawan males ranked 26th in 2005.

Never been to Okinawa, but let me guess. Awamori and cigarettes?

Okinawan males of 65 years and older still have the highest life expectancy in Japan, but the younger generations, who don't follow their traditional diet, don't.

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I had a long history of eating way too much meat. Every several years or so I'd attempt to go vegetarian, but the cravings for meat and a general but indefineable feeling of non-rightness would make all those attempts crash and burn eventually. Finally my meat obsession succeeded in provoking an acute gout attack, and so while I did not eliminate meat entirely--far from it!--I cut back significantly. I now allow myself 8 to 10 oz of meat daily (often partly or totally substituted with the equivalent amount of protein from non-meat sources) and I seem to be doing pretty well.

It helped me immensely when I read some of the work of Annemarie Colbin, a writer and cooking teacher who follows a natural foods/macrobiotic slant on healthy eating. She wrote about noticing that some of her students experienced great health improvements switching to a vegetarian diet, while others who were long-time vegetarians were not thriving under such a regimen but perked up considerably when they added modest amounts of animal protein back into their diet.

Her conclusion was that, not only do dietary needs differ from one person to another, but one person's needs differ over time. At one point, they may need to clear out their system from a long-term overindulgence in an unhealthy diet, so a drastic switch is helpful. But a cleansing diet is not meant to be a permanent thing, so staying on it too long can turn into a problem in itself. So you simply have to keep listening to your body, feeling what it needs, and gently steering it away from its occasional urges to eat excessive amounts of any one particular crave food.

I dunno if that's helpful, but there's my $0.02 for whatever it's worth. :smile:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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Paul McCartney is older than 64 now.

So's this guy. But I don't think citing this or that mildly aged vegetarian is much proof of anything, especially one whose vegetarian wife passed on well before her time was up. And if it's true that Paul McCartney has been vegetarian since 1971, what do we learn? That 36 years of vegetarian food have made him healthy? Not killed him yet? Made no difference either way?

It's interesting that Ohba excludes religious factors.  Vegetarians who remain so tend to have strong ideological reasons for their diets, even if they're based on environmental factors, cultural identity or in some cases, a strong commitment to physical fitness as opposed to a vague notion of health benefits.

There were two main reasons for that, really. The first was that I was following on from my point that vegetarians often make exaggerated claims concerning the health benefits of their diet. This may apply less to religious vegetarians, who are doing it for a different set of reasons, and who are probably a minority among vegetarians in the United States (where I have assumed this question was posted from). The second problem raised by religious vegetarianism is that it inevitably involves discussion of India, as (I'm ready to be corrected on this) the only country where vegetarians are a truly significant proportion of the total population. They may in fact represent the great majority of the world's vegetarians. We could of course specifically consider the diet of Indian Hindus, but I'm not sure that's what the question was asking.

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Pontormo yesterday: "Paul McCartney is older than 64 now."

Ohba's response: "So's this guy. But I don't think citing this or that mildly aged vegetarian is much proof of anything, especially one whose vegetarian wife passed on well before her time was up. And if it's true that Paul McCartney has been vegetarian since 1971, what do we learn? That 36 years of vegetarian food have made him healthy? Not killed him yet? Made no difference either way?"

Pontormo today: It was a joke, Ohba, in reference to the song by the Beatles and the anecdotal evidence sprinkled through this thread.

* * *

Pontormo yesterday: It's interesting that Ohba excludes religious factors.  Vegetarians who remain so tend to have strong ideological reasons for their diets, even if they're based on environmental factors, cultural identity or in some cases, a strong commitment to physical fitness as opposed to a vague notion of health benefits.

Ohba's reply: There were two main reasons for that, really. The first was that I was following on from my point that vegetarians often make exaggerated claims concerning the health benefits of their diet. This may apply less to religious vegetarians, who are doing it for a different set of reasons, and who are probably a minority among vegetarians in the United States (where I have assumed this question was posted from). The second problem raised by religious vegetarianism is that it inevitably involves discussion of India, as (I'm ready to be corrected on this) the only country where vegetarians are a truly significant proportion of the total population. They may in fact represent the great majority of the world's vegetarians. We could of course specifically consider the diet of Indian Hindus, but I'm not sure that's what the question was asking.

Pontormo today: Actually, I was thinking about Indian vegetarians, too, of whom there are large populations in the United States. Seven-Day Adventists (Christians) also adher to vegetarian diets.

Internet searches lead to many sources that link vegetarian diets to longevity, including those of an academic nature--not just the highly selective arguments of sites established by vegetarians.

As implied in my original post, reasons for the correlation may not be attributed solely to the elimination of meat from diets as a number of studies point out how few vegetarians smoke. I have to wonder if the generalization is made about specific Western cultures where studies were conducted (e.g., U.K.), but greater affluence is sometimes given as a factor. Exercise and greater concern for personal health, too.

Vegetarians also tend to eat more fruits and vegetables (quantity & variety) than your average carnivore in the United States, at least. I don't know if that's true of Asian cultures in general. The term "Mediterranean Diet" was popularized here some time ago to encourage Americans to eat more healthful, balanced diets that included more produce and far less meat as demonstrated in this food pyramid. In the 1980s, the idea appealed to the Eurocentric nature of our culture.

Edited to get rid of screwed-up BB code of quotes.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

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