Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Eating meat as part of a balanced diet is shown to extend life expectancy worldwide. A recent study, published in the International Journal of General Medicine, has examined the health effects of meat consumption in more than 170 countries, finding that it can lead to living a longer life, independent of the competing effects of daily calorie intake, personal finance, living conditions and obesity.
“We wanted to look more closely at research that has thrown a negative spotlight on meat consumption in the human diet,” said study author Doctor Wenpeng You.
The research group believes that most studies until now have only looked at the link between meat consumption and people’s health within small groups of people or particular regions, which can lead to misleading scientific conclusions.
Researchers believe that meat provides optimal nutrition for populations around the world, who over time have developed genetic, physiological and morphological adaptations to eating these products.
Following the progress in nutrition science and economic growth, more and more studies based on populations who live in developed countries have associated vegetarian and plant-based diets with improved health.
However, these findings may not contradict the benefits of meat consumption.
The association between a plant-based diet and extended life span is increasingly criticised as it may be based on the lack of representative data and lifestyle factors.
Yanfei Ge, a nutritionist working on the study, said: “Studies looking into the diets of wealthy, highly educated communities, are looking at people who have the purchasing power and the knowledge to select plant-based diets that access the full nutrients normally contained in meat.
“Essentially, they have replaced meat with all the same nutrition meat provides.”
Researchers argue that vegetarianism and veganism form a part of “trendy Western consumerist lifestyles” that are only accessible to people in developed countries.
To date, some studies have found that vegetarians tend to have greater life expectancy compared with non-vegetarians in some populations.
However, several studies with large sample sizes in Australia and the United Kingdom did not show that meat-eating impacted negatively on life expectancy.
That is why the suggestion that a plant-based diet improves longevity is questionable.
According to Doctor Arthur Saniotis, study co-author and anthropologist at the University of Adelaide, meat contains important nutrients, which contribute to overall health, no matter the number of calories consumed.
“Without meat in our diet, we may not thrive,” he said.
It has been argued that consumption of meat is a high-quality component in the human diet and it leads to increases in body and brain sizes.
At the same time, it also favours a reduction in the size of the gastrointestinal tract, producing an increase in brain weight/body weight ratios.
Doctor Saniotis argued: “Meat-eating is beneficial to human health provided that it is consumed in moderation and that the meat industry is conducted in an ethical way.”
Meat, in fact, is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and is one of the main sources of vitamin B12 in the human diet.
Some meats however are high in fat, especially saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Thus, when buying meat and meat products it’s important to prefer lean cuts to fatty ones, check labels for nutritional information and avoid processed meat.
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