Its been speculated for some time..that eating red meat leads to an increased incidence of heart disease and cancer. And an analysis, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, using data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women, further confirms the fact that consuming red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease; and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.
People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.
The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer.
You might say that you had suspected this all along, but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link and further reinforce this conclusion.
The modus operandi for red meats and heart disease is quite clear-cut: the high saturated fats content leads to cholesterol deposition in the walls of the arteries. In the case of cancer, the mode of action is less clear-cut. Some postulated causes include:
- the presence of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in grass-fed meat which has anti-cancer properties.
- the mode of cooking, with preference to ‘low and slow’ and doneness.
- chemicals (nitro compounds) used in preservation of processed meats.
- breakdown of blood components like haem to harmful cancer-causing chemicals (read more here).
This probably why meat-eating countries like Argentina do not report high incidences of gut cancer..
In what may be a trend of the future, Denmark has decided to impose a tax based on the amount of fats in a particular food. The basis behind this is apparently to make the population eat less fatty foods, in an attempt to increase the life expectancy of Danes.
How it works is that a surcharge(“Fat Tax“) is placed on foods high in saturated fat. Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food will all be subject to the levy. The tax amounts to 16 kroner (about USD 3 ) per kilogram of saturated fat in a product.
“Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark,” health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen said when he introduced the idea in 2009, because “saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
The idea isn’t that original really – last month, Hungary introduced a new tax popularly known as the “Hamburger Law,” but that only involves higher taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks and food flavorings.In the UK last year, news reports raised the possibility of inposing VAT (currently 17.5%) on foods high in fat(currently there is no VAT on foods).
My view on this is that, as far as foods are concerned, it is equally important to cut down on salt and sugar as well, so does that mean taxes need to be imposed on food in general? The other point is whether the sole objective of prolonging life alone is adequate when many agree quality of life is just as important.