Is Eating Meat Natural?

03/16/2012

Eating meat main photoI’m slightly embarrassed to admit that just after finishing the Twilight series two years too late, this post hits home. No I’m not one to crave blood, human or animal blood for that matter, and if you are, you’ve got bigger issues to deal with than whether or not to become a vegetarian.

I don’t see a cow and want to shred it to bits even if my iron and B12 count is low and I’d rather cuddle with pig that tear it apart. Okay--so this proves I'm not a vampire, but a natural vegetarian, I'm not sure. But even more potent evidence of whether meat is healthful or not, is a recent huge study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine which pointed to the innate health risks associated with eating meat.

The study followed 37,698 men and 83,644 women who filled out surveys pertaining to their diets during a four year period. The study followed up on participants 20 years later and found that 24,000 participants had died, 5,910 from heart disease and 9,464 from cancer. Factoring in for age and lifestyle preferences, the study found an increased risk of premature death associated with eating meat.

Red Meat Consumption Increases Risk of Premature Death 

This includes steak, hamburger, pork, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, etc.  Eating one serving per day (the size of a deck of cards) of unprocessed red meat increased your risk of premature death by 13 percent. If that meat was processed (bacon, sausage, etc) then your risk increased by 20 percent. By replacing that serving with fish the risk went down by 7 percent but even better, by replacing meat with nuts it went down 19 percent, and beans it went down 10 percent.

Eating Meat and Our Anatomy

The study has left many wondering why eating such a small serving of meat can make us so sick if we’re supposed to eat it. In the same way that we don’t crave killing animals, we’re anatomically unable to do it unless we have weapons. Humans lack sharp enough claws to tear an animal apart and our canines aren’t really canines in the same sense of the word. Unlike true carnivores we can’t shred animal carcasses and eat them whole. 

Our intestinal systems aren’t set up for a carnivorous diet either. Unlike carnivores that eat animals raw and then often swallow them whole, we have much longer intestinal tracts, which are meant to remove nutrients from the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Since our systems are so much longer, rotting meat can get stuck instead of getting pushed out, which can cause disease. 

Eating meat inline photo

Photo: Jupiterimages 

In addition, we don’t have the stomach acidity that carnivores have for killing food borne illnesses which, because of the length of our intestinal tracts, have more time to make us sick. 

Dr. Colin T. Campbell says that we’ve only been eating meat for 10,000 years since we began herding animals and our bodies have yet to adapt to the diet. We’re not natural carnivores he contends, we’re “behavioral omnivores.”

What About B12?

But this begs to question why vegans can’t get enough B12 in their diet without animal products. Vitamin B12 is essential to your genetic cellular makeup. It's critical to ensure that red blood cells get enough oxygen to the body. Though this is certainly true of everyone, a deficiency is more common in vegetarians and vegans because B12 is found in animal products. Vegans claim that it’s a mineral which was once derived in trace amounts from the soil where plant-based food grew, but over time the soil has been over depleted so much that today it’s impossible to get it. However, I’ve seen no scientific proof that shows this. 

But study after study after study is proving that whether we’re meant to eat meat or not, the amounts should be tiny in order to minimize risk to our bodies and the planet. 

Photo: Thinkstock

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More on Eating Meat
Who Knew There Was Glue in Your Meat? 
What Did Cavemen Really Eat and Were They Actually Healthier? 
Mark Zuckerberg Slaughters a Lobster and Other Humane Meat Eating 


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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