Monday, March 12, 2012, the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study concluded that red meat consumption was associated with living a significantly shorter life—increased cancer mortality, increased heart disease mortality, and increased overall mortality.
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 when about 24,000 had died including about 6000 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 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's immaterial whether amino acids come from animal or plant protein. However, protein is not consumed in isolation. Instead it's 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, other nutrient in this protein package may influence long term health. For example, results from the Harvard Nurses Study suggests that eating more protein from beans, nuts, seeds and the like while cutting back on 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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For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Avoid Carnitine and Lethicin Supplements