Red meat: consider your health, and the environment's as well?

A large, long-term study from Harvard School of Public Health published last week confirmed what we already know – red meat is a disease-promoting food whose consumption leads to premature death.1 This is an important study because of its lengthy follow-up time, distinction between unprocessed and processed red meats, and findings of a dose-response relationship between red meat intake and risk of death – in short, the authors concluded each daily serving of unprocessed red meat increased risk by 13% and processed meat by 20%. However, the bottom line “red meat increases risk of mortality” certainly isn’t news. This is not the first study to link meat consumption to premature death, and it certainly will not be the last.1-5

Of interest though, is the accompanying commentary by Dean Ornish, M.D., a respected and widely known figure in lifestyle medicine. In his comment, Dr. Ornish leaves the physician-sanctioned territory of human health and nutrition makes a call to action to reduce red meat consumption to protect the health of our planet, not just ourselves:6

“In addition to their health benefits, the food choices we make each day affect other important areas as well. What is personally sustainable is globally sustainable. What is good for you is good for our planet...
… choosing to eat more plant-based foods and less red meat is better for all of us—ourselves, our loved ones, and our planet. In short, don't have a cow!”>6

Cows. Flickr: Joost J. Bakker Ijmuidin

We already know that red meat is a contributory factor in the development of cancer7 – plus, we know from epidemiologic findings from rural areas that the etiology of this relationship will not be negated by eating grass-fed beef.8-13 We know that heme iron is an oxidant that accumulates in the body over time, contributing to cardiovascular disease and dementia.14,15 We know that heme iron and proteins in meats form N-nitroso compounds in the digestive tract that can damage cellular DNA, potentially leading to stomach and colorectal cancers.16-18 We know that cooking meats (all meats, not just red meat) at high temperatures forms carcinogens called heterocyclic amines.19 Plus, we are now finding that chronic inflammation results from newly discovered compounds such as Neu5Gc, which accumulate from eating red meat.20 Furthermore, higher levels of meats (animal protein) lead to higher circulating levels of IGF-1 that promote cell division and fuel growth of cancerous cells.21,22 These issues related to heme iron and animal protein will also not be resolved by simply switching to grass-fed beef.

The “red meat is good for you” slogan is dead – its proponents don’t have a scientific leg to stand on. Atkins, Dukan, Sugar Busters, Weston Price, and all the other meat-promoting and protecting people need to keep out of this discussion and finally stop protesting and promoting death. Now, the new question has become: are red meat consumers and promoters destroying our environment also?

There is certainly no need to debate the health issues any further. With global livestock production expected to double by 2050,23 now is the time for the public to become better aware of the environmental impact of consuming meat. Dr. Ornish brings up these important points regarding the impact of animal agriculture on our environment:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions: The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation – about 18% of total emissions; emissions include carbon dioxide and to a greater extent, methane and nitrous oxide, which are considered to be more harmful than carbon dioxide.
  • Deforestation: Currently, animal agriculture uses 30% of the Earth’s land surface, and 70% of forests in the Amazon are no longer forests – they have become grazing land for livestock, resulting in depletion of wildlife and natural ecosystems.
  • Use of resources and energy: Almost 40% of the world’s grain (and over 50% in the U.S.) is fed to livestock and 33% of arable land on Earth is devoted to growing feed for livestock. The production of 1 pound of beef requires almost 20,000 liters of water, and is a significant contributor to water pollution.6,23

What do you think?
Especially considering red meat is harmful to human health, and to our environment do you agree with Dr. Ornish? Should all of us, including informed physicians make it our responsibility to promote dietary change for environmental reasons as well, or should we doctors stick to health and medical topics?

 

 

References:

1. Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies. Arch Intern Med 2012.
2. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, et al: Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med 2009;169:562-571.
3. Major JM, Cross AJ, Doubeni CA, et al: Socioeconomic deprivation impact on meat intake and mortality: NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Cancer Causes Control 2011;22:1699-1707.
4. Key TJ, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, et al: Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:516S-524S.
5. Fraser GE: Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all-cause mortality in non-Hispanic white California Seventh-day Adventists. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:532S-538S.
6. Ornish D: Holy Cow! What's Good For You Is Good For Our Planet: Comment on "Red Meat Consumption and Mortality". Arch Intern Med 2012.
7. Continuous Update Project Interim Report Summary. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. . World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research.; 2011.
8. Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J: Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China study. Am J Cardiol 1998;82:18T-21T.
9. Campbell TC, Junshi C: Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: perspectives from China. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1153S-1161S.
10. Esselstyn CB, Jr.: Is the present therapy for coronary artery disease the radical mastectomy of the twenty-first century? Am J Cardiol 2010;106:902-904.
11. Strom A, Jensen RA: Mortality from circulatory diseases in Norway 1940-1945. Lancet 1951;1:126-129.
12. Gjonca A, Bobak M: Albanian paradox, another example of protective effect of Mediterranean lifestyle? Lancet 1997;350:1815-1817.
13. Helsing E: Traditional diets and disease patterns of the Mediterranean, circa 1960. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:1329S-1337S.
14. Brewer GJ: Iron and copper toxicity in diseases of aging, particularly atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Exp Biol Med 2007;232:323-335.
15. Brewer GJ: Risks of copper and iron toxicity during aging in humans. Chem Res Toxicol 2010;23:319-326.
16. WCRF/AICR Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. pp. 93: World Cancer Research Fund:93.
17. Lunn JC, Kuhnle G, Mai V, et al: The effect of haem in red and processed meat on the endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Carcinogenesis 2007;28:685-690.
18. Kuhnle GG, Story GW, Reda T, et al: Diet-induced endogenous formation of nitroso compounds in the GI tract. Free Radic Biol Med 2007;43:1040-1047.
19. Zheng W, Lee S-A: Well-Done Meat Intake, Heterocyclic Amine Exposure, and Cancer Risk. Nutr Cancer 2009;61:437-446.
20. Padler-Karavani V, Yu H, Cao H, et al: Diversity in specificity, abundance, and composition of anti-Neu5Gc antibodies in normal humans: potential implications for disease. Glycobiology 2008;18:818-830.
21. Thissen JP, Ketelslegers JM, Underwood LE: Nutritional regulation of the insulin-like growth factors. Endocr Rev 1994;15:80-101.
22. Kaaks R: Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Novartis Found Symp 2004;262:247-260; discussion 260-268.
23. Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2006.

 

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Comments (46) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
carfree - March 19, 2012 9:14 AM

I think it's obvious to anyone willing to look at the situation that meat eating is not healthy for our planet. Most people simply won't look at their behavior objectively, though; in this and other areas as well. I don"'t think the message is more effective coming from a doctor, either, for these people. If they won't take their doctor's health advice, they certainly won't take his environment-saving advice.

Denial is a powerful enemy.

Mike Rubino - March 19, 2012 9:29 AM

Great point. Help oneself and the planet by staying away from meat !

Grahame Scott-Douglas - March 19, 2012 9:29 AM

"Should all of us, including informed physicians make it our responsibility to promote dietary change for environmental reasons as well, or should us doctors stick to health and medical topics?"

Taking a wider responsibility is always the better course. If you know the truth about something that is destroying the health of individuals as well as the health of the entire planet then you have a duty to do something about it.

Well done to Dr. Ornish for his commentary and well done to you for helping make this data more broadly known.

David Griffin - March 19, 2012 12:01 PM

Yea - I do think it's great that you share this info - especially with those that have already gained your respect in other areas, but I imagine an outsider might not feel the same way based on your credentials. Then again, not too long ago, 50% of people didn't believe 90% of the world's best climate scientists about climate change despite THEIR credentials! So you can't win, many are brainwashed by the myths spread by the media and various talk show hosts, or driven by their own emotions. So its tough. It's just going to take years and years for people to accept this, but I think putting the message out there is important, and the more trusted channels it comes from, the better.

Mark Gray - March 19, 2012 1:12 PM

Docs should speak out on environmental issues, especially when there is synergy with health issues. It may be hard to find a case where there is not some synergy. The livestock issue is huge, but will take time to change without severe economic impacts to the world economy. The process must begin with an ever-increasing number and volume of voices from many quarters saying essentially the same thing.

Julie - March 19, 2012 1:14 PM

We have to be very careful here. I have been vegan for 11 years, so I actually walk the walk, and so do my children and my husband. We definitely understand the health implications, and we also realize that raising and eating cows are harmful to the environment. With that said, as a free people, we have to be careful what we wish for. The fact is that man made global warming is BS. It has been proven to be a lie and a fraud with the scientific community leading the fraud, of course backed by corrupt politicians (redundant) who would never pass up the opportunity to eat a steak. The actual effects of global warming will increase the temperature of the planet 1 degree over the next one hundred years. I say if people want to eat a steak, go for it! This administration would just as soon ban us from eating what we want (meanwhile eating whatever they please) under the false guise of protecting the planet. Let's be a little more careful with being alarmists. People could be incentivised to eat better not given free health care and then able to make others pay for their bad choices. I choose to eat healthy for me and my family. I don't need to be forced to, and I dont want to have to pay for your bad habits. We need to get back to being self reliant. Put the cost of medical care at the hands of the individual, and maybe they would eat better.

Barbara - March 19, 2012 1:19 PM

I think it's helpful to bring in broader implications of the diet we eat. I like knowing the impact of my food choices not just on myself but others and the planet. Plus it is something to feel good about if I'm helping the environment by eating less meat, or eating more organic. And for some people maybe this adds additional helpful motivation to eat healthy.

You can point out these issues without sounding like you have some hidden agenda. I've never worried that Dr. Fuhrman is secretly more interested in the environment than how I can fight cancer with diet. :) I also would be interested to hear different perspectives if people disagree with these statements, as long as they are fact-based. I love a good discussion.

-barb

Shera Barger - March 19, 2012 1:30 PM

I think the more information we can give people, the better. It may be that, while most everyone knows that eating a diet high in red meat is not in the individual's best interest, some may not realize that it also hurts the environment. I say, hit 'em with information from every angle, and hopefully, some of it will stick!

Robbie - March 19, 2012 1:32 PM

I'm sorry, but isn't this a health topic? If doctors would educate themselves on how to keep people healthy and promote good health instead of promoting toxic chemicals to try to make their ill-health more tolerable, then our world would be a better place and the environment would benefit, too.

The more people talking about this, the better.

Jean Myers - March 19, 2012 1:35 PM

Yes, and one's actions speak louder than words - follow a whole foods vegan diet and help others to do the same! Our environment is at risk from our ignorant eating behaviors - we don' t have the luxury of time anymore so get creative and find new ways to reach people today.

Kris Treat - March 19, 2012 1:55 PM

If only all physicians would strongly recommend and promote not eating red meat to their patients!!!!! Many physicians don't even ask their patients what they eat at all. Patients are not told the serious risks of eating red meat until after they have already gotten sick.

Yes Doctors should tell their patients about the environmental issues of eating red meat. We are after all living in the environment and the ultimate stewards of this earth. Doctors are respected and listened to. I can only hope that more doctors will stop worrying about how many patients they see each day and spend their time to impart REAL preventative medicine
wisdom. EAT WHOLE PLANT FOOD.

Abigail - March 19, 2012 2:06 PM

I think doctors have to decide for themselves whether or not to promote an environmental message on top of a health message. But one thing to consider is that, if one message doesn't get through (the health one), perhaps the environmental issue will. I came to healthy eating originally through the health message (ETL) and, over the course of reading many, many books, came to care about the animals themselves and the environment. At this point, all of those issues are inextricably intertwined for me.

AmyLu - March 19, 2012 2:20 PM

The environment IS a health and medical topic. Author Wendell Berry explains this beautifully in the book "The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry," edited by Norman Wirzba.

Jos Callinet - March 19, 2012 2:46 PM

I strongly feel that all informed persons, especially doctors, owe it to us as well as to themselves to strengthen their argument for our NOT consuming red meat by emphasizing ALL the downsides to eating it - we ARE damaging not only our own and our children's bodies (our children depend on and are affected by our food choices) but also the planet that sustains us, for all the reasons given in the article.

Yes, to all doctors and scientists who know better - and who haven't been corrupted and bribed by agribusiness interests to keep their mouths shut - please speak up loudly and clearly about all the harmful consequences of red-meat consumption.

gail m - March 19, 2012 3:08 PM

Yes, of course doctors should include environmental issues as well. Climate change is a major issue that has to be addressed. You cannot separate enviromental and health issues. Raising animals by the billions, destroys our forests, uses huge amount of our dwindling fresh water supplies and takes huges swaths of land that could be used to grow grains and others vegetables for human consumption and uses it to grow animal feed. We could feed more people better diets by eliminating meat from our diets.

Animal husbandry practices are cruel and inhumane to boot. So.....better health, a cleaner, safer and perhaps more stable climate and a more compassionate and humane treatment of the animals we share the plaet with makes the issue seem like a no brainer to me. Less meat or better still, no meat, can lead to a better world for all. Most vegans I know hold this worldview.

Hollywood - March 19, 2012 3:10 PM

I agree with carfree. It's too bad that people are so addicted to their unhealthy lifestyles. For example, smoking, we all know beyond any reasonable doubt, is bad for you. Plus the outrageous cost, yet we continue to have so many that keep smoking or begin smoking, it's amazing. I imagine this will be no different for the majority of people and red meat. I try to lead by example and I hope to reach someone once in a while, but sadly it is rare.

Alice Bruckenstein - March 19, 2012 3:45 PM

It's time that informed physicians promote dietary change for environmental as well as health reasons. The U.S. government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting the beef industry by rounding up wild horses off public lands and keeping them in holding pens so that cattle ranchers can lease that land for grazing their herds. We must use our knowledge to protect the planet.

LindaLK - March 19, 2012 3:47 PM

Dr Fuhrman, I agree with your articles wholeheartedly. However, you and Dr. Ornish are up against the beef and livestock industry and Oprah did not fare well after she did an expose against the beef industry and after that she seemed to stick with celebrities instead of issues on the pulse of Americans.

Thanks for the great report - I am up against this battle myself as my dad is a farmer and now considers my eating habits strange as I won't eat beef...

Glenn Babakian - March 19, 2012 4:04 PM

Environmental concerns were prominent among the reasons I chose to stop eating meat several years ago. I'm glad to see this issue getting more attention.

phillW - March 19, 2012 4:26 PM

I haven't read the actual study, but in addition to Dr. Fuhrman I follow a Dr. from the UK called John Briffa. He generally follows the same line of thinking as Fuhrman in thinking that vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc should be making up the vast majority of our diets. And that sources of protein should be limited to fish and lean forms of meat.

He appears to have read the study mentioned above and raises some flags about the statistics behind the results ... particularly how it is difficult to adequately account for other factors in these large epidemiologic studies where there is no control group or attempt made to control other factors like smoking, alcohol, exercise.

See his comments at: http://www.drbriffa.com/2012/03/15/red-meat-kills-its-flagrant-bias-thats-killing-me/

He doesn't actually disagree that lean meat protein should be make up a minor part of our diets. He just cautions that the people should understand the study better, rather than the inevitable newspaper headlines that will oversimplify things.

Michael Edelstein - March 19, 2012 4:27 PM

I suggest you do not dilute the nutrition issue by bringing in the fields of economics, politics, and morality.

War is immoral and affects health. Depression and stress may affect health as well. Do you wish to include in your nutrition articles anti-war and cognitive-behavioral therapy messages?

Please keep to your area of expertise--you're magnificent at it!

Louise Moore - March 19, 2012 4:58 PM

Physicians live on planet earth, just the same as any other group of people, so first and foremost, I believe they have a right (if not a responsibility) to speak up for the health of the environment, as we all do. In addition, when there are certain doctors, such as yourself and Dr. Ornish, who have made careers out of studying nutrition, which also includes food how food is produced and where it comes from... You are probabaly better educated on the subject that 99% of the population... so your voices need to be heard for that reason as well. And finally, those of us who are interested in the optimum health for ourselves are usually also concerned for the health of the planet... and since we have come to trust your research and opinions as credible - and on the right track - to me, it is always valuable to read articles here to keep up with all relevant health formats on the environment as well as on nutrition, because you're a trusted resource. Thank you for all you do.

Bob Luhrs - March 19, 2012 5:02 PM

It's tempting to leave it at "this is bad", so let's not do it.

Next, we find people thinking other things are "good" by comparison. So they eat more pork or chicken or pasta with olive oil, since "cheese is bad." It leads nowhere.

The reason we need to go further and always say what's good is why Dr Fuhrman gets the results, while others don't. To me he's the real deal, I admit my bias. I think crap is going to get into you here and there not only from food, but lots of ways. And while the Nutritarian ANDI list is no license to willingly ingest bad stuff, without it little progress is going to be made by just avoiding the worst culprit foods, or joining 'vegans for the planet'. It's lucky the best foods are better for the Earth, their leaves eat carbon dioxide, too. All good. But the micronutrients are the only thing that cures toxic hunger, and toxic hunger is what's killing us and our planet. Go Nutritarian--Now.

mike crosby - March 19, 2012 5:08 PM

Could anyone please help me out? I clicked on the "study" link but I could not actually read the study. Did anyone here check it out and understand it?

I don't see how red meat can be separated and codified as science. I would be interested to see how this is done.

Robert S - March 19, 2012 5:16 PM

My neighbor just started strip mining for coal. Coal for the energy to harvest the crops to feed the animals that we eat. From the comfort of my backyard I now have a first hand view of the rape of mother Earth, a view that inspires such thoughts as that the best thing for the planet would be for us to go extinct. The next best thing would be for us to take the data at heart and change our ways. Do we want our tax money to be used to subsidize wasteful, disease producing lifestyles? Will the AMA finally start paying attention? Here's to hoping they will. Keep up!

Barry - March 19, 2012 6:41 PM

"With that said, as a free people, we have to be careful what we wish for. The fact is that man made global warming is BS. It has been proven to be a lie and a fraud with the scientific community leading the fraud, of course backed by corrupt politicians (redundant) who would never pass up the opportunity to eat a steak. The actual effects of global warming will increase the temperature of the planet 1 degree over the next one hundred years. I say if people want to eat a steak, go for it!"
*******************************************************
What planet are you from Julie?

Well, how do humans cause global warming? There are three significant ways in which you likely contribute are:

1. Driving your car which requires the combustion of tremendous amounts of fossil fuels. These fuels have been storing carbon for thousands, possibly millions of years. When your car burns them, that carbon is instantly released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

2. Buying your suburban home whose lot was cleared of existing trees and plants that were actively storing carbon. When those plants were killed to build your home, they stopped storing carbon and released all the carbon they had accumulated over tens or even hundreds of years.

3. Eating supermarket meat which requires both the clearing of land for growing animal feed and the use of enormous fossil fuel-powered machines in the production, processing and transportation of this feed (as well as the meat).

Also if you eat beef, lamb or goat meat, you should know that those animals digestive tracts produce methane, a major greenhouse gas. It may surprise you that animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but that was the finding of a recent study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Thanks,
Barry Stroem

juliebbb - March 19, 2012 9:05 PM

I think the two messages should be kept distinct. I have already seen commentary that tries to dismiss the Eat to Live as some subversive message from PETA, that the Physicians for Responsible Medicine is just a front for a radical environmental group, and things like that. It is easy enough for someone who doesn't want to quit eating meat for their health to dismiss the health message when it comes along with an environmental message as well, "It's just those tree huggers making stuff up again"..etc. Keep it simple, keep it true, meat is not health food.

Sheri - March 19, 2012 9:49 PM

That study was a Big Farse ! To include processed meats such as hotdogs, Store bought meat from Feed Lots which feed their cows un-natural food that they were never meant to eat, such as Corn & Grains Instead of feeding on what cows are suppose to eat...Grass !
and since they feed these poor cows such a lousy diet, they must pump them full of antibiotics just to keep them alive.
And to those people who think that going vegan is the answer to good health... Hummmm.... Taking your Vitamin B-12 ? Which you get from the only source....Meat !

Kimmi - March 20, 2012 12:59 AM

As a doctor, with the knowledge of the effects of meat on the environment, the wellbeings of the animals in question, and of COURSE the health implications I would feel a moral responsibility to share this knowledge with my patients.

Most people are just ill informed about the severity of effects from meat. They will listen to someone they trust, and most people in this society trust their doctors.

Angela - March 20, 2012 1:37 AM

Great article, thanks for sharing. In Australia there are still tv advertisements from red meat industries which promote it as essential for health, and make fun of vegetarians. I find this amazing! Research like the above goes a long way to give credibility to the message that needs to be sent. Thanks!

Michael - March 20, 2012 9:52 AM

Sheri,

The only source for B12 is from meat? Then how did it appear in the cow, magic? You better do some more research.

Carrie - March 20, 2012 1:20 PM

I agree with most of the posts above -- environmental healthy and human health are inseparable. Therefore, I don't think it's overstepping one's boundaries for a doctor to emphasize both, and I think it would be great if more doctors would talk about this. However, I think it's important to make sure you're very educated about the topic, because you will come up against a lot of arguments and you don't want to damage your credibility by seeming like you don't know what you're talking about.

Neil Allen - March 20, 2012 8:08 PM

Folks we read the books we eat better now than we did before go buy some copies and share them with your loved ones and friends. The fight is not here, it is over the dinner table one tasty healthy meal at a time. Joel is doing his part and we need to do our part, Spread the Word,
Fix the Food and Share It.

Bria Singer - March 20, 2012 9:52 PM

The health of all human beings depends upon the health of our planet which sustains us. Without a healthy planet there can be no healthy people! Of course guardians of health should advocate for the health of our environment! Deep gratitude!

Gladys Eternicka - March 21, 2012 1:23 PM

I think the medical professions, agricultural professions and environmental professions are all interconnected and in an ideal world would be cooperating with each other to promote the health of the people and the environment. Scientists have published the results of the dangers of eating meat. Environmentalists have published the dangers of raising food animals to the environment. Agriculturists and our government have to get on board and encourage the agricultural professions to seek other means of using agricultural lands for profit. Would monetary incentives to animal food raisers and farmers be a better way of using tax dollars? It has been done before to keep the prices of grains stable. The ultimate change maker though is the consumer. Going back to the medical profession, there are too few doctors who tell their patients to not consume dangerous foods until their patients have failing kidneys and all the other diseases related to eating animal protein. I was told by a doctor that humans are basically carnivorous. On the other hand, if we don't consume animal protein, world economies would REALLY collapse (in the short term. I think we would figure a way out of that too).

Desiree - March 21, 2012 2:31 PM

Living and working in Texas and New Mexico and being a broadcast journalism undergraduate major, I understand the impact of the media. The beef and dairy industry are affluent and pay for millions of dollars of advertising and also pay for so called "studies" that promote beef. When reviewing journals, articles, and studies it is always vital to note the source as the beef industry obviously has a motive when claiming beef is good for you. Grass fed and organic are all joke words when it comes to beef as in the end, ALL beef ends up a feedlot where they are bloated with unnatural foods (grains) that is difficult for them to process but it makes them gain weight....heavier the cow....the more steak it provides meaning the more money the industry makes and profits. I do not advocate PETA's use of sex, however, their Meet Your Meat video will show the process of where your hamburger comes from. Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine also picked up on the story that public school systems recently purchased hamburger meat to feed children that did NOT pass inspection.

T Foster - March 21, 2012 5:50 PM

In this culture of self righteous dead animal eaters it is vital that the anti animal products message be repeated endlessly. It won't be heard by most people, but very well may be heard by those who are on the edge of making the decision to abstain. It's the transitional people who need reminders, evidence, and sheer repetition. No doubt most doctors have given up all but casual conversational efforts to get their patients to consider serious dietary change. They consider themselves lucky to get some of their patients to moderate, to eat less, of what they have been eating. More is needed than that, much more. Thank you Dr. Fuhrman.

mrfreddy - March 22, 2012 8:33 AM

"A large, long-term study from Harvard School of Public Health published last week confirmed..."

Actually, no. This was an observational study, ie, epidemiology. I'm not just being overly technical when I say that it is inherently impossible for such a study to confirm anything.

If you want to confirm such a thing like "red meat causes x, y, or z," you need to create experiments that actually show causation, ie real proof. So far, none exists.

James Dew - March 22, 2012 10:12 AM

If we look at the effect size in the Harvard study, eating less red meat added about one year of life to the normal life span. Personally, I've got some important plans for that year!

Delisa Renideo - March 24, 2012 10:21 PM

I believe, as many others on this forum, that we can't separate personal health from environmental health. If we have only polluted air and water available, eating all the veggies in the world won't make us healthy. So yes, I do believe doctors should put the environmental facts out there, as well. In order to prevent it from coming across as "vegan bias" when promoting a plant-based diet, I think physicians could honestly look at the data and say something like, "Yes, we can get our omega 3's from fish or fish oil, but we can also get them from plants without contributing to overfishing or being concerned about the safety of the products, due to pollution of the oceans. I greatly appreciate Dr. Ornish and you, Dr. Fuhrman, for bringing up this subject!

Chris - March 24, 2012 10:38 PM

Well, the body is a smaller version of "the environment" so its all interrelated. If it harms our body, it will eventually harm the larger environment and then come back to affect the individual body.
The further one gets away from the original, natural state of our food, the more resources are spent to produce it and the more disease it produces. In other words, the more you remove the plant or the cow from how it was originally intended to grow, live, eat, and sustain itself, the more diseased we will be when we consume those things, and the more taxed the land becomes because it's hard to sustain. At some point, it will affect everyone's health directly because the land used to grow plants vs. cattle will be in direct conflict/competition for the space and resources more as time goes on. It is a health issue if you look at the long term consequences instead of just short term preferences of what people prefer to eat.

Just as an obese person cannot sustain their addiction to unhealhty food and function well, our nation will expend vast resources to fuel the beast it's addicted to: animal products and processed foods that require an over taxation on the land, and eventually, us.

tpc - March 29, 2012 3:20 PM

Each person has the right to express their views on the environment respectfully to others, but I would encourage you to talk to some farmers also for their perspectives. We operate a small family farm in the Midwest. If we are to stay in business, we must use the un-farmable grasslands that make up about half of our land and on which we pay high annual property taxes. Ruminant animals such as cows fit naturally in this setting and are a diversifying element in a business filled with risks. If our 40 cows on 400 acres put some methane into the atmosphere, that is balanced by the fact that we use no fuel to get to work.

In the study above, the concern was with “the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat…” (www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases) We would never advocate a daily serving of beef as was examined in this study, but let’s remember that ETL allows up to 10% of calories from lower-nutrient foods. No one has to eat beef ever, but consumers should have the option of putting small amounts on their large salads, plates of vegetables, etc. from time to time if they so desire. We believe there will always be a place for pasture animals in the careful use of our land resources. Whole Foods Market agrees and carries natural beef and other meat products that give people a choice.

Olle Selin - April 8, 2012 3:05 PM

In a holistic health perpective, we have to look at everything that affecting our health. In that perspective we can categorize that "everything" in four groups as our relation to:
1 Microcosmos like our biochemistry, cells and organs.
2 "Between"-cosmos like neighbours, animals, the environment we live in.
3 Macrocosmos like the earth.
4 Our relation to ourselfs as our beliefsystems, mental patterns, inner conflicts and so on.
In that perspective i think eating meat might involve every group, maybe exept number three depending on how deep perspective we will take.
Concerning group four, it might be possible that meat eaters have varying degree of consiuos and/or unconcious felings of guilt, that might have an impact on the meateaters health.
So, in this perspective i think that a holistic oriented health provider/doctor who have this insights have the duty to, in a proper and in the context adapted way, inform about the consequenses/impact of eating meat, becouse it strikes back and have an impact on health in so many ways. And in my point of view, i think that Dr Fuhrman have a great concept to inspire people in this direction by saying its ok to eat meat, but not so much and often and to point the best choices for helth.
/ Olle Selin naturopath, Sundsvall, Sweden

Jeff - April 10, 2012 8:26 PM

1) Clearly, meat eating does not harm the environment in any way. Rather, certain industrial methods of raising meat have negative environmental impact. The cow grazing in my back pasture, has a far more positive effect on the carbon cycle, soil-building, etc, than Monsanto/Dow/ConAgra style row crop farming. Pasture-raised beef is far better for the planet than an equivalent amount of calories in genetically modified, pesticide/herbicide sprayed, petro-chem fertilized corn and soy.

Anyone advocating a plant based diet is propagating the environmental disaster that is modern agriculture. And if the defense is that you only eat organic, my backyard cow is still a bigger net positive. Every successful ecosystem on the plnaet requires animals, an in order to be truly sustainable, so does any type of plant farming.

2) You folks need to read more recent material. The bulk of data is now convincingly in favor of the view that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet are either neutral or beneficial for health.

3) I'd like to see a list of the successful and healthy primitive/hunter-gatherer groups that chose a vegan lifestyle. There are none known. Every human group known to science has included animal products, often harvested with great effort and with great personal danger. I'd trust millenia of evolution and culture, rather than a few decades of fickle fads and tenuous scince, to arrive at an optimal diet.

Angela - April 18, 2012 1:14 PM

I agree with Julie. We should have the freedom to eat however we choose, but it would be great if there weren't so many lies pushed at the population about what is healthy.

I think the real problem is the amount of meat we now eat. If you think back to the "old days", people didn't kill and prepare a cow for meat until they were going to have a feast or celebrate something very special. It wasn't a 3x a day food. My grandmother says meat used to be a lot more expensive, so they only ate a few servings a week (and smaller portions). When you start tinkering with the economy and subsidizing things (health care, agriculture, etc) then you mess up people's incentives. I enjoy red meat on occasion, but mostly try to eat more nutritarian in nature. It would be great if most of America would treat meat as a "treat", as it should be.

John Doyle - June 11, 2012 7:32 AM

You can't use the Harvard study to generalise about meat eating. It could well be a valid conclusion when talking about american meat. This is today not much like traditional beef etc eaten up to say 50 years ago as it is full of hormones and fattened on unnatural diets, like grains.
Yes, we can't all have meat diets except in moderation because there's not enough planet to support that. On the other hand a lot of land is and was grassland and utilising that is not evil.
We have small stomachs so we need highly nutritious foods like cooked meats and fats as well as starches to survive. Vegetarian animals have second stomachs and they take up a large volume of the animal. Many animals can live entirely on grasses and many entirely on meat. We have evolved to do both.
Dietary advice today from official sources is bad, promoting low fat diets but which in reality are high sugar [fructose] diets. The heart associan diet is calculated to cause heart attacks, not prevent them.
They are the enemy, not meat diets or vegan diets.

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