Friday, March 27, 2009

Maybe the anti-beef protesters were on to something

Put down that Big Mac, Joe. Spit out that Whopper, Wendy. A ten-year longitudinal study of half a million subjects led by the National Cancer Institute finds that eating red meat increases the chances of dying prematurely:
The study of more than 500,000 middle-age and elderly Americans found that those who consumed the equivalent of about a small hamburger every day were more than 30% more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Sausage, cold cuts and other processed meats increased the risk too.

Previous research had found a link between red meat and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, but the new study is the first large examination of the relationship between eating meat and overall mortality.
The data may be clear but the reasons are not — yet. High saturated fat, carcinogenic compounds from cooking, high levels of iron, etc., are all possible culprits. Since beef is something most people don't want to give up, the solution may be to just eat a lot less of it.

Chicken and fish are much more suitable forms of meat. Koreans and Japanese still eat much less beef than Americans do, so it's no surprise that Japanese life expectancy is typically around the highest in the world and South Korean life expectancy is quickly catching up.

[above: The Six-Dollar Burger at Carl's Jr. will set you back $3.95 plus tax, but that doesn't include the opportunity costs associated with an unpleasant early death.]


  1. Mark Bittman ("The Minimalist") NYTimes Dining & Wine columnist and minor food celebrity gave a talk which expands the issue well beyond health issues. Some parts feel like a rehash of "Fast Food Nation" but he also states some facts which were completely new to me.

  2. Thanks for the link, Netizen Kim. I have to admit, though, that I haven't yet watched the whole thing. I've had a weird schedule lately and when I do have time to sit in front of the computer, I have the attention span of a two-month-old.


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