Meat and meat products contain relatively large amounts of carcinogenic compounds, such as heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrates, pesticides (despite the fact that pesticides are used to spray crops and other plants, meats contain significantly greater pesticides residues than the plant products due to their accumulation in animal tissues, a process known as bio-accumulation), and hormones. Some of these compounds are the result of feeding methods, and other due to preparation of meat and meat products for consumption. Consumption of meat and sausages on the grill results in a particularly high risk of developing cancer. Similarly, smoked and fried meats contain higher content of carcinogenic compounds.
Due to the fact that meat consumption is associated with a higher incidence of cancers of various organs, organizations dealing with cancer prevention recommend limiting their intake. A good example of such recommendations are guidelines issued by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research in their monumental document entitled Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. In it we read: “limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.” Further, we read: “population average consumption of red meat to be no more than 300g (11oz) per week, very little if any of which should be processed.”
Eating meat is associated with the occurrence of arthritis. One study, which assessed the impact of meat consumption on the risk of arthritis, was performed at Loma Linda University in California. Among those who ate meat at least once a week, the risk of gout was 49 percent higher in women and 43 percent higher in men compared to individuals who abstained from meat intake. A similar effect was observed in another study conducted in the United Kingdom, known as the EPIC-Norfolk Study. This study included 25,630 people between 45 and 75 years of age. Among those who consumed the largest amounts of red meat researchers observed a 90 percent higher risk of developing arthritis compared with individuals with the lowest intake. Similarly, the group consuming the highest meat and animal products had a 190 percent higher risk of arthritis compared to those with the lowest intake.
Dementia is another health problem that is impacted by meat intake. According to a study, which included people from 7 countries (China, India, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru), individuals who consumed the largest quantities of meat had a 19 percent higher risk of developing dementia compared with those with the lowest intake. Similar effect was shown in a study with members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the United States. Those with the highest intake of meat and fish had almost 3 times as high risk for dementia compared to individuals who abstained from meat.
The above mentioned studies clearly show that the higher the consumption of meat, the higher the risk of various lifestyle diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, dementia and arthritis. To reduce the risk of developing these health conditions, diet should be primarily based on unrefined plant products and meat intake should be either drastically reduced or completely eliminated. Unfortunately, meat is relatively cheap and readily available. People can find meat in fast food and full service restaurants and grocery stores. Giving up or even reducing meat intake seems to be a thing that goes against the culture. Considering that meat avoidance is an important factor in chronic disease prevention it would be beneficial for any individual to adopt a plant-based diet.