One of the big stories of the week is that eating red meat shortens life. Researchers led by An Pan at the Harvard School of Public Health studied data on 121,000 doctors and nurses covering a period of up to 22 years. It turns out that a daily serving of red meat increases the risk of dying from cancer by 13 per cent and of dying from heart disease by 19.5 per cent. The critical level seems to be 42 grams of red meat a day – below that you’re okay, the further you are above it the more dangerous it gets. And processed red meat (hamburgers and sausages, for example) turns out to be worse than unprocessed.
If you’d bought my book Help Yourself To Live Longer (Teach Yourself, 2010) you already would have known this. I pointed to studies which suggested that eating meat less than once a week improved life expectancy by three to four years.
Fat has a lot to do with it. So do nitrosamines. But there is another element. Other research suggests that a low protein diet promotes longevity. No one really knows exactly how much protein a human being requires but a widely accepted figure is 0.75g per kg of body weight per day. Meat is obviously high in protein. One good steak provides roughly double that amount. On the other hand, a vegan would struggle to reach it.
So if you want to live longer, become a vegan. There’s more. You’ll no longer be responsible for the suffering and death of farm animals. That should make you feel both relieved and happy.