Meat is crucial for human health, scientists have warned, as they called for an end to the “zealotry” pushing vegetarian and vegan diets. The Telegraph has the story.
Dozens of experts were asked to look into the science behind claims that meat eating causes disease and is harmful for the planet in a special issue of Animal Frontiers.
They warned that it is difficult to replace the nutritional content of meat, arguing that poorer communities with low meat intake often suffer from stunting, wasting and anaemia driven by a lack of vital nutrients and protein.
In recent years, there has been a widespread societal push towards plant-based diets, with schemes such as Veganuary and meat-free Mondays encouraging the public away from meat.
The major Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factor Study, published in the Lancet in 2020, also suggested that a diet high in red meat was responsible for 896,000 deaths worldwide, and was the fifth leading dietary risk factor.
But researchers argue that unprocessed meat delivers most of the vitamin B12 intake in human diets, plays a major role in supplying retinol, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals such as iron and zinc, as well as important compounds for metabolism, such as taurine and creatine.
In one paper published in the issue, experts found no good evidence to support red meat being dangerous below intakes of 75g per day, and argued that the link between red meat and disease vanished when part of a healthy diet, suggesting it was the rest of the diet that was fuelling health problems.
Dr. Alice Stanton, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, one of the authors of the review, said: “The peer-reviewed evidence published reaffirms that [the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Risk Factors Report] which claimed that consumption of even tiny amounts of red meat harms health is fatally scientifically flawed.
“In fact, removing fresh meat and dairy from diets would harm human health. Women, children, the elderly and low income would be particularly negatively impacted.”
The NHS also advises that red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and can form part of a balanced diet, although it warns that eating more than 90g per day can raise the risk of bowel cancer.
The new edition includes a declaration signed by nearly 1,000 scientists across the globe arguing that livestock farming was too important to society to “become the victim of zealotry”.
The Dublin Declaration includes signatories from the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast, Newcastle, Nottingham, Surrey as well as several scientists from Britain’s world-leading agricultural and farming university Harper Adams.
“Livestock-derived foods provide a variety of essential nutrients and other health-promoting compounds, many of which are lacking in diets even among those populations with higher incomes,” the declaration states.
“Well-resourced individuals may be able to achieve adequate diets while heavily restricting meat, dairy and eggs. However, this approach should not be recommended for general populations.”
The researchers warned that those who need to eat animal products included young children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, women of reproductive age, older adults and the chronically ill.
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