Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meat-related mortality


I just finished a liverwurst sandwich (delicious with dijon mustard and sliced purple onion); it was 'to die for' but not exactly my definition of health food. Imagine my dismay when to die for took on a more literal meaning as I opened the March 23rd issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine to this headline news: "Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people."(1)

So what do 500,000 meat eaters have to teach us about the guilty pleasure of a liverwurst sandwich? Namely that the consumption of red meat and processed meats (and liverwurst, while not red, is oddly pink in a processed, not-found-in-nature sort of way) is
associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality.

In other words, too much meat and you're so much dead meat. My sandwich sits like a guilty lump in my stomach. An accompanying editorial goes on to indict me further: "Far too few clinicians speak out on topics such as this. What the public hears is the side of the profession that is preaching vegetarian diets and not the side of the profession that is discussing moderation as a healthy option." So I'm telling you now, the very occasional processed meat treat may be good for your soul, but mostly you should emulate my favorite dinner--which I had last night--namely a bowl of Bear Naked Granola.

And just to further fuel my discomfort with meat, I have just ordered "Dying for a Hamburger: Modern Meat Processing and the Epidemic of Alzheimer's Disease" wherein the authors make a case that Alzheimer's Disease is spreading like an infectious disease which, per them, is carried in cow meat meals contaminated by prions, the proteinaceous particles associated with mad cow disease. Lovely. I'll let you know if this sounds cutting edge or lunatic fringe.
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1) Arch Into Med. 2009 Mar 23;169(6):562-71.

9 comments:

Ruth said...

Sorry, I am not very excited about your liverwurst sandwich. Having a vegetarian daughter has helped me learn to cook meatless meals, but my husband is a big meat eater. I will have to show him this post.

kenju said...

I will show it to my husband too. How on earth do you know what is too much? My dad lived to be 92 and he ate meat every day of his life.

Anonymous said...

So, the question is, does the same apply to fish, non-processed chicken and non-processed turkey? I am on a VERY high protein diet, and although I am not much of a red-meat eater, I do like fish, chicken, turkey, and even lamb and pork. Does the article speak to those options? Erica Alikchihoo

Reality Man said...

Where did you pick up the liverwurst gene? Was it your year around the Great Lakes?

femail doc said...

Ruth and Kenju: Well there's only so much you can worry about. This data just suggests that too much meat will land one on the wrong side of the statistics. I wish someone would cook me meatless meals.

Erica: The miserable meat stats don't apply to fish and non-processed poultry. They doubtless have something nasty associated with them as well (mercury? salmonella?) but heck we've got to eat something.

Bro'sup: Please meat my husband, a liverwurst fan from way back. Scrapple too--what really is scrapple? Better to enjoy it and not ask...

kenju said...

Speaking of liverwurst, it is the only form of liver I will eat, and you are right - with mustard and onions, it is great!! But if I eat one, I would probably have to absent myself from other people for hours!!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a Boston Legal script... Danny Crane.
If it is true, we are all in trouble,
the other current theory is a form of brain diabetes....
Who knows...
Glad your bro is finally outed as such....

Mauigirl said...

Having just consumed a goodly amount of excellent hangar steak at a local French restaurant, I was not happy to read this! However, I've been on Weight Watchers for about 2 weeks and have massively increased my consumption of fish and lowered the red meat intake - many more WW points than fish. Tonight was an unusual treat.

Scary about the Alzheimer's connection but hopefully they're wrong...

Lorinda said...

I've actually been wondering about the connection for a while. It would explain the prevalence of the disease in our society. I'd like to look at the occurrence rates in cultures that eat less red meat.