Reach ‘peak meat’ by 2030 to tackle climate crisis, say scientists
Livestock production needs to reach its peak within the next decade in order to tackle the climate emergency, scientists have warned.
They are calling for governments in all but the poorest countries to set a date for “peak meat” because animal agriculture is a significant and fast-growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Cattle and sheep emit large amounts of methane while forests are destroyed to create pasture and grow the grains that are fed to intensively reared animals.
The world’s scientists agree that huge amounts of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere to limit global heating to 1.5C. More than 80% of farmland is used for livestock but it produces just 18% of food calories.
Reducing meat and dairy, and eating plant-based diets instead, would free up land to be returned to natural forest. Researchers say that is the best option currently available for storing large amounts of carbon.
For decades, health experts have been warning us away from red and processed meats (like sausage and cold cuts). “People who eat the most red meat are more prone to developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer and other cancers,” says Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, who has tracked the diets of 300,000 people for up to four decades. “There is remarkable consistency and reproducibility in the evidence.”
But a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine created a huge stir by reporting that the links between meat and health consequences were insignificant and by issuing a new set of guidelines recommending that people stop trying to cut back on meat. To understand whether bacon burgers are good or bad, we sat down with David Katz, M.D., founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center at the Yale School of Public Health and founder of the True Health Initiative, a global watchdog coalition of more than 500 health and nutrition experts.
A Sacred Cow? Controversial Recommendations About Red Meat
A sacred cow, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an idea or institution unreasonably held to be immune from questioning or criticism.” The term, also used in journalism to indicate someone not to be criticized or even copy not to be altered, seems to have originated in the late 19th century, probably in the context of the cow as an object of reverence in the Hindu religion.
With the recent intense criticism directed at a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine (October 2019) about red meat intake in our diet, we may be indeed dealing with one of our “sacred cows.” Criticism has come from the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Association, Dr. Frank Hu, Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Dr. David L. Katz, President and Founder, True Health Initiative, among many others, when the series of articles recommended, in a complete reversal of years of previous research findings, that Americans need not necessarily limit their intake of red and processed meat to prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, many forms of cancer, and even earlier mortality.
Typically, a medical journal publishes its findings and then gives some analysis of what those findings might mean, but it is unusual for authors to extrapolate findings into recommendations. It is especially rare when the directives bear on heart disease, the No. 1 killer of humans. And incorporating patient preferences into the guidelines themselves is controversial. History would likely be different if findings in the 1960s that cigarettes cause lung cancer had been translated into clinical guidelines where harms were negated by people’s enjoyment of cigarettes.
Summarizing the evidence of all the studies is not easy, but in our view we should all be eating less meat & more high fibre, nutrient-dense foods that include many vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts & seeds
Dr. Campbell’s recommendations for Dietary Guidelines
AUTHOR: T. Colin Campbell, PhD
On the dietary guidelines, THI Council Member and author of The China Diet, T. Colin Cambell PhD says, “Over the decades, we have witnessed the recommendations take the form of a square (“Basic Four”) turned into a pyramid, into a dinner plate, and (almost) into a circle—all with similar content. Marketing yes, but science no….The executive summary of the 2002 FNB report made the extraordinary statement that up to 35% protein is associated with “minimizing risk for chronic disease” when 10% protein (the RDA) is enough. The 35% protein recommendation was accepted and is still promoted by the DG committee. Promoting 35% protein as an acceptable level for the school lunch and WIC programs, for example, is a disaster. In fact a whole food plant based (WFPB) diet, with no added oil, can easily provide 10-12% total protein, which meets the long established recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 9-10% protein. The continued use of an upper ‘safe’ level of 35% protein of total, daily dietary calories in my view is grossly unscientific and completely irresponsible.
…..Not addressing information concerning the proper amount and kind of dietary protein, an essential major nutrient, will continue to have serious consequences
‘Totally bizarre!’ – nutritionists see red over study downplaying the health risks of red meat
AUTHOR: Brett Arends
Nutritionists across the country are hitting back hard after a new collection of studies alleged that red meat and processed meats — including steak, ribs, bacon and salami — are fine for your health after all.
‘They ignored major parts of the available evidence.’
—Harvard University professor Walter Willett, who has published 1,700 academic articles on nutrition and public health
Experts question studies on the impact of eating more red meat
AUTHOR: DR. TARA NARULA
In a statement, the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine called the results “misrepresentations” and said that there’s abundant evidence linking red and processed meat to heart disease and “increased risk of premature death.”
A group of papers about red and processed meat and human health, released today by Annals of Internal Medicine, says it’s OK to eat them because researchers couldn’t find any links to health problems like heart disease and cancer.
Not surprisingly, the studies have created an uproar among leading health and nutrition researchers who have long said eating too much of them is bad for your health. Several groups, one of which includes an author of one of the papers, sent letters to the journal’s editor requesting that publication be postponed for further investigation.
Is Red Meat Still Bad for You? The Experts Say Less is Best
Before you begin eating more red meat, or feeling less concern about your health when you do, consider the facts rather than the fantasy, say US experts who are working hard to tell you the truth behind the headlines promising that red meat is really ok. It is not—particularly if your hope to live healthier into your older years.
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