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Meat eating increases risk of nine serious illnesses

Oxford researchers have linked eating meat to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia

Posted : 25 May 2021

No one wants to end up in hospital with a serious illness – or to end up in hospital at all, for that matter. But new research suggests there is a way to lower your chances of finding yourself wearing a backless robe and hooked up to a drip: eat less meat.

An Oxford University study has found that regularly consuming meat increases the risk of developing a number of serious non-cancerous illnesses, including heart disease, pneumonia and diabetes. That’s not to say that cancer is off the menu: a plethora of studies have already linked red and processed meat to colorectal cancerbreast cancerpancreatic cancer and many others.

The researchers are the first to look at what connections, if any, there were between an omnivorous diet and 25 conditions that commonly end in hospitalisation. Studying the health records and diets of almost 500,000 middle-aged Britons over eight years, they found that eating red meat, processed meat and poultry at least three times a week increased the likelihood of falling prey to nine of the illnesses.

A higher consumption of red and processed meat, high in cholesterol, was linked to ischemic heart disease, pneumonia, diverticular disease, colon polyps and diabetes, while poultry – chicken and turkey – was linked to gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, gastritis and duodenitis, diverticular disease, gallbladder disease and diabetes.

They even went so far as to calculate the extent to which the risk increased depending on the amount of meat eaten. For every 70g of red or processed meat consumed daily, for example – the equivalent of a single plump sausage for breakfast – the risk of developing heart disease rises by 15 per cent and diabetes by 30 per cent. Every 30g of poultry consumed daily – a quarter of a chicken breast – increases the risk of developing diabetes by 14 per cent and gastro-oesophageal reflux by 17 per cent.

The lead researcher, Dr Keren Papier, said further investigation was needed to establish “the extent to which these diseases could be prevented by decreasing meat consumption”. Given we know that a plant-based diet actively lowers the risk of developing cancer, you can expect the women and men in white coats to be reporting on the further benefits of healthier, planet-friendly grub at some point in the near future.

Read the report

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