A major study that has just been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine
shows that eating a lot of red meat increases the risk of death,
especially the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and cancer.
I'm glad that this message is getting out. However, I wish that people
were told the whole story: Nutrition researchers have known since 1994
that eating even small amounts of any animal-based food increases the
risk of death. There doesn't seem to be any safe level of intake. We
know that from the China-Cornell-Oxford Project
a massive study that was undertaken in China starting in the 1970s.
That study included some populations that were eating extremely small
amounts of animal-based foods. It found that there didn't seem to be any "safe" level of intake
of meat, eggs, fish, and dairy foods.
Of course, people don't want to hear that
they can't eat any meat. They want to hear that a little bit is okay.
They especially want to hear that the foods they like can be part of a
"healthy, balanced diet." Many people especially want to hear that they
should dine on expensive seafood instead of eating cheap hot dogs. In
reality, however, the scientific evidence has been showing for decades
that eating any animal-source food poses a needless risk.
The USDA urges people to eat animal-based
foods, even though the scientific evidence clearly shows that that those
foods are the major underlying causes of our major causes of death and
disability. By doing so, the USDA is violating federal law. According to
U.S. federal law (7 USC Sec. 5341 
Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are required to issue Dietary Guidelines for Americans at least every 5 years. These
guidelines are intended for the general public and "shall be promoted by
each federal agency in carrying out any federal food, nutrition, or
health program." The information and guidelines in each report "shall be
based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge
which is current at the time the report is prepared." In other words,
it's a violation of federal law for the USDA to urge us to eat food that
scientific research has shown is bad for us.
The 2010 guidelines
urge Americans to eat lots of "protein foods." Yet nutrition scientists
have known since the early 20th century that human protein requirements
are so low that they are met automatically if people eat enough
unrefined starches and vegetables to get enough calories. The
nutritionists who designed European food rationing systems during World
War I knew that fact. In 1917, the famous British nutrition researcher Sir William Maddock Bayliss
wrote, "Take care of the calories and the protein will take care of
itself." In Denmark, Dr. Mikkel Hindhede designed an almost exclusively
plant-based rationing system to prevent starvation during World War I.
As a result, Denmark enjoyed the lowest death rate in its history
. The people of the United States deserve to know these things. It's a matter of life and death.
Laurie has worked as a medical editor and writer for many years. She is the author of Not Trivial: How Studying the Traditional Liberal Arts Can Set You Free.
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