Strong data associate eating red and processed meats regularly with increased risk for heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, some types of cancers and other diseases, but until now we had no good data to show whether eating small amounts of meat may be harmful. However, this month researchers published a study on 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists which suggests that even small amounts of meat increase risk of death, particularly from heart attacks. More than 50 percent of Adventists are vegetarians and of those who eat meat, more than 90 percent eat an average of less than two ounces of meat per day, so the researchers were able to compare a large group of non-meat-eaters with equal numbers of people who ate very small amounts of meat. During the 11 year period of the study there were 7961 deaths. The authors reported that, "We found higher all-cause and CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality to be associated with relatively low intake of red and processed meat compared to zero intake . . . these results suggest possible adverse effects of red and processed meat, even with low to moderate levels of intake" (Nutrients, March 14, 2019;11(3):622).
Earlier studies have shown that regular meat-eaters are at increased risk for:
• Peripheral Artery Disease: Eating meat from mammals is associated with increased risk for peripheral artery disease, blockage of arteries leading to the arms, legs, head and belly (Am J Clin Nutr, Jan 12, 2017).
• Cancer: An extensive review of retrospective and prospective studies showed that mammal meat increases cancer risk (British Medical Bulletin, Dec 23, 2016). Beef, pork, lamb and other meats from mammals may cause cancers of the colon, prostate or pancreas (The Lancet Oncology, 2015;16(6):1599-1600).
• Breast Cancer: Women who eat grilled, barbecued or smoked meats are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, and continuing to eat mammal meat after breast cancer diagnosis increases risk of dying from breast cancer (Nutr Cancer, 2009; 61(4):437-446; J Natl Cancer Inst, Jan 4, 2017;109(6):djw299).
• Colon Cancer: Eating meat is associated with increased risk of colon cancer, and processing the meat increases risk (European Journal of Nutrition, Nov 24, 2016). The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a report that eating processed meats raises risk for colon cancer. Mammal meat is associated with increased risk for colon cancer (Am Coll Nutr, 2015;34(6):521-543), and the more meat that you eat, the greater your risk (Public Health Nutr, published online July 6, 2015).
• Diabetes: A study from the University of Eastern Finland showed that eating animal protein increases, and plant protein decreases, risk for diabetes and that replacing animal protein with plant protein reduces diabetes risk (British Journal of Nutrition, April 11, 2017).
I believe that everyone should eat a wide variety of vegetables, unground whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and other plant parts. I recommend avoiding or restricting meat from mammals, based on the studies cited above and many others. Why I Still Restrict Meat