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Meat & Mortality

The massive NIH-AARP study looks at the relationship between meat consumption and total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.

November 3, 2009 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to jayneandd.


I realize I’m moving very quickly through all this—I’m just trying to fit in as much of the best new science as I possible can. It is important, though, to pause and just acknowledge the tremendous dedication, work, energy, and resources these researchers have sacrificed. I mean imagine what it takes to not only study thousands of individuals, but then follow them for a decade or two. I can hardly keep track of friends that long.
Now imagine following a half million people for ten years. The National Institutes of Health AARP study, the largest forward-looking study of diet and health in history. So what does the largest study ever have to say about meat intake and mortality? Meat means increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular mortality. End of story.
Here’s the title of the accompanying editorial in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine: “Reducing meat consumption has multiple benefits for the world’s health,” calling for a “major reduction in total meat intake.” They do particularly pick on processed meats, but in terms of global crises “There is a…tsunami brewing, namely, we are seeing the confluence of growing constraints on water, energy, and food supplies combined with the rapid shift toward greater consumption of all animal source foods,” which they note are inefficient, wasteful, and polluting.
And this is in a journal of the AMA. Just so readers don’t think they’re biased, though, they note that “The author is not a vegetarian.”

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 veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on meat. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

Also, please check out my associated blog posts, Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies and Eating To Extend Our Lifespan.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on meat. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Cameron Wells

    You’ve discussed the health effects of meat, and advocate a reduction or elimination of meat from people’s diets (with proper B12 supplementation). You’ve also posted a fair amount of videos on the industrial contaminants present in meat, and how those can contribute to cancer rates, mortality rates, etc.
    My question is, have there been any studies which focus specifically on the health effects of naturally farmed beef, pigs, chickens, etc (from cows which are free range, grass fed, not constantly given antibiotics, etc), and do those studies reinforce data procured from studies regarding the healthfulness of industrially produced meats?

    • Toxins

      Hello Cameron!

      Compositionally, organic meat and conventional meat is basically the same. Regardless of whether there are antibiotics or not, they are typically still contaminated, such as even organic chicken containing arsenic But lets assume that these products were not contaminated at all, lets say they were as clean as a whistle, with no heavy metals or anything. Still, these foods are sub par. The incredible healing power of plant foods over animal foods is overwhelming. Animal based foods are nutritionally poor meals, providing little nutrients to your body. Antioxidant wise, they fail the test as well Looking at meat and dairy, they still contain trans fats which the recommended daily allowance is at 0 Dairy blocks the phytonutrients of plant foods, Looking at chicken, its fat to protein ratio is abominable Fish protein itself shortens lifespan by 6 years by cutting down our telomeres and overall, what do animal products have in common? They promote cancer due to raised IGF-1 levels, promote heart disease, autoimmune disease, dementia, etc. What can stop the progression and in most cases reverse these diseases? Plants, not meat. It seems clear based on all of the evidence that plant food, all around, is much healthier than meat, organic or not.

      • beccadoggie10

        Hello “Toxins,”

        None of your links have cited that organically grown and fed chickens contain arsenic. Furthermore, when I ate meat prior to 2012, I only ate organic and my fingers, which are chemically sensitive to both VOC’s and to arsenic still had lots of circulation when organic poultry was eaten, but not when so called “natural” poultry was eaten.

        The USDA standards do not allow arsenic in organic-chicken feed.
        Learn more:

        I don’t know where you get your information, but none of the urls you posted said that organic chickens are fed arsenic laced feed.

      • fineartmarcella

        VERY WELL said toxins, and you are just showing the tip of the evidence based iceberg!
        But, It will always be that the fleshlovers come to the truth only by being drug by one foot kicking and screaming. They always have faux proofs that would magically ‘change’ the outcome of eating the poisons in meat, like ‘but the meat poison was organic’, its kind of like their logic runs even with ‘I’ve shot myself with a shotgun plenty of times and its never hurt me yet!’

  • lworley1

    The meat intake and mortality study is interesting – apparently, women actually get healthier as their red meat consumption increases! Male mortality increased 107% from the 1st quintile to the 5th, but women’s mortality decreased 29% from the 1st to the 5th quintile of red meat consumption! I am definitely checking into a sex change if this study is accurate!

  • wilscot

    Where do you get the idea that women get healthier as their red meat consumption increases? Tables 2 and 3 in the paper show that all cause mortality increases for men from 1.00 to 1.31 in the 5th quintile of red meat consumption (T2), and for women it is 1.36 in the 5th quintile of consumption (T3).

    • lworley1

      I might possibly have misread the table – good thing I didn’t get that sex reassignment surgery after all!