Transcript: Harvard’s Meat & Mortality Studies
On Monday, March 12. 2012, the results of two major Harvard studies were published. 37,000 men; 83,000 women; the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Harvard Nurses’ Study. Back in the 80s, researchers at Harvard started following these 120,000 people, who were, initially free of known heart disease and cancer, at the beginning. A few decades later, though, and about 24,000 had died, including about 6,000 from heart disease, and 9,000 from cancer.
Meanwhile, all along, every four years, the researchers were checking in, and keeping track of everyone’s diet. What did they find? Conclusions: Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer mortality—meaning a significantly shorter lifespan. No surprise, given the associated greater risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. And this was after controlling for age, weight, alcohol, exercise, smoking, family history, caloric intake, and even the intake of whole healthy plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
So it’s not like the people eating more meat were dying prematurely because they were eating less vegetables. They seemed to be dying prematurely because they were eating more meat. The substitution of other healthy protein sources is associated with lower mortality risk. The most powerful protector they found was nuts, associated with dropping mortality risk 19 percent.
Why? Because food is a package deal. The chair of Harvard’s nutrition department [Walter Willett], who in his “Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide,” explains about picking “the best protein packages by emphasizing plant sources of protein rather than animal sources.”
See: “To the metabolic systems engaged in protein production and repair, it is immaterial whether amino acids come from animal or plant protein. However, protein is not consumed in isolation. Instead, it is packaged with a host of other nutrients.” Right? That’s the baggage I am always referring to. Right?
“The quality and amount of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other nutrients in this ‘protein package’ may influence long-term health. For example, results from the [Harvard] Nurses’ [Health] Study suggests that eating more protein from beans, nuts, seeds, and the like—while cutting back on easily digested carbohydrates [refined carbs] reduces the risk of heart disease”—as we saw in the new studies.
So, what’s Harvard’s bottom line? “Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest.”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ed Lynch.
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