For the last few years, veganism has been on the rise as many have eschewed meat, thinking an entirely plant-based diet is healthier for you and can help you live longer. However, a new study suggests that is untrue and reveals the reality about meat-eating and longevity!
A team of scientists from Australia, Italy, Poland, and Switzerland has examined the association between meat intake and life expectancy at a population level based on ecological data published by the United Nations agencies. What they found may surprise you!
“Life expectancy at birth is the measure synthetically describing mortality in a population,” said lead author Dr. Wenpeng You, a researcher at the University of Adelaide and FAPAB Research Center, and colleagues.
“It is estimated that 20-30% of human life expectancy is determined by genetic factors, and 70-80% is determined by environmental factors.”
“Over the last 50 years, although the associations between meat-eating and illness are circumstantial and controversial to some extent, they have prompted the spread of vegetarianism and veganism, based on the assumption that non-meat diets provide more health benefits than diets that include meat.”
“Moreover, it has been argued that vegetarianism and veganism form a part of ‘trendy’ Western consumerist lifestyles — only accessible to privileged ‘white’ people.”
“Vegetarianism that has been prevalent in Western countries has been subject to prejudice, low self-esteem, and low psychological adjustment.”
“To date, there has been prevailing research stating that vegetarians tend to have greater life expectancy compared with non-vegetarians in some populations. However, lack of population representativeness and failure to remove the influence of lifestyle in these studies have been heavily criticized.”
“Our population-based study, using data collected by the United Nations and its agencies, tests the hypothesis that, worldwide, populations with more meat consumption have greater life expectancies.”
In the study, Dr. You and co-authors examined the overall health effects of total meat consumption in 175 countries around the world.
The researchers found that the consumption of energy from carbohydrate crops (grains and tubers) does not lead to greater life expectancy and that total meat consumption correlates to greater life expectancy, independent of the competing effects of total calories intake, economic affluence, urban advantages, and obesity.
“Humans have adapted to meat-eating from the perspective of their more than two million years evolution,” said Professor Maciej Henneberg, a researcher at the University of Adelaide and the University of Zürich.
“Meat of small and large animals provided optimal nutrition to our ancestors who developed genetic, physiological, and morphological adaptations to eating meat products, and we have inherited those adaptations.”
“Our take-home message from the paper is that meat-eating is beneficial to human health provided that it is consumed in moderation and that the meat industry is conducted in an ethical way.”
The team’s results are published in the International Journal of General Medicine.