There is no doubt about it: vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise as more and more people are becoming aware of the potential impacts of meat and animal product consumption and the effect it has on our health, spirituality, conscience, and the environment.
As more awareness is raised, more people are making an effort to either ditch or drastically cut back on their consumption — and for good reason. Those who have opted for this lifestyle have varying reasons, but the most common are the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, inhumane treatment of animals on factory farms, and the growing health concerns over many animal products.
How Bad Is Meat Consumption On Our Health?
More and more studies are emerging specifically on the potential impact that a diet consisting largely around meat and animal products has on our health. Last year the World Health Organization declared that processed meats are actually now classified as a ‘Group 1’ carcinogen along with tobacco and asbestos. But aside from just increasing your risk of cancer, another study has found that meat can actually raise your mortality rate and increase your likelihood of dying from a number of diet-related ailments.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona reviewed data that was collected from six different large-scale studies that tracked more than 1.5 million people for varying periods of time, ranging from 5 to 28 years. Participants of these studies ranged from extreme, strict vegans to those who ate meat daily, and generally more than once. Their review, appropriately titled, “Is Meat Killing Us,” in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, found that meat is killing us.
“This data reinforces what we have known for so long –your diet has great potential to harm or heal,” said Brookshield Laurent from the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine.
What Does This Include Exactly?
From the data that was collected, the main focus was around the consumption of red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and processed meat products such as bacon, lunchmeat, hot dogs, sausages etc. These particularly raise the risks of developing cardiovascular disease or cancer, and other serious health concerns like diabetes and increased blood pressure.
The study concluded overall that “the evidence is consistent that increased intake of red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with increased all-caused mortality.”
There is some good news here, however, specifically for vegans or those who are looking to shift more towards a pant-based diet. The study found that in smaller studies “a vegan diet has been shown to improve several parameters of health, including reversal of cardiovascular disease, decreased body mass index, decreased risk of diabetes and decreased blood pressure.”
The report also showcased that sticking strictly to a plant -based diet for the long run was shown to have the most overall benefits. Those who ate a vegetarian diet for more than 17 years increased their life expectancy by 3.6 years, compared to more short-term vegetarians who saw less significant benefits.
So, Is It Worth It?
This is something only you can decide. You may be thinking, what’s 3.5 years? I’d rather eat what I want and not deprive myself. But is it a matter of giving years to your life or life to your years? Would you rather live a healthy lifestyle, and maintain that health into old age, or pass away after suffering from disease? This is not to say that you will definitely contract a life-threatening disease, but as the above data shows, it is more of a potentiality.
Perhaps the biggest take away we can gain from this information is not that we need to be vegan to maintain good health, but that we do not need meat and other animal products to maintain good health. Shifting our perspective around this issue is a great step in the right direction. Opening up our minds to the possibility that we can eat less meat, more plants and be healthy and happy is a great possibility.
Perhaps, with more awareness being raised around this issue, the less we will see things like factory farms practicing inhumane methods of animal agriculture and destroying our environment. The less we’ll see the production and consumption of things we know are absolutely toxic for us to consume like these processed meats and shift over to foods that we know have the capacity to nourish and heal our bodies. Maybe one day, we’ll see cancer-warning labels on packages of bacon just like we do on cigarettes.
All of these things are possible from spreading the knowledge, making changes in your life and by raising awareness! We have already seen these shifts taking place as the prevalence of those on a vegan or vegetarian diet is on the rise, and we are seeing more and more options available at grocery stores and restaurants. We can choose to evolve with the times and utilize the information that we are presented with to our advantage or we can carry out our same patterns and stick with the old paradigm. The choice is ours. What do you choose?