Meat-eating increases life expectancy, according to an analysis of United Nations data published February 22, 2022 in the International Journal of General Medicine.
You and colleagues analyzed the relationship between meat consumption, carbohydrate crop consumption, and life expectancy at birth and at 5 years of age. They found that meat-eating correlates with dramatically reduced childhood mortality as well as greater life expectancy, while consumption of carbohydrate crops had no influence on either childhood mortality or life expectancy.
In this study, You and colleagues used data for total meat consumption. Per the FAO, meat is defined as “flesh of animals used for food” and includes beef, veal, buffalo, pork, mutton and lamb, goat meat, horse meat, chicken meat, goose meat, duck meat, turkey meat, rabbit meat, game meat and offal.
You and colleagues found that total meat-eating reduced childhood mortality and increases life expectancy even when they statistically controlled for influences of caloric intake, urbanization, obesity, education, socioeconomic status, and carbohydrate crops consumption.
Take notice from the graph above that the lowest childhood mortality and greatest life expectancy was associated with consumption of more than 150 kg (330 lbs) meat per person per year, or about 0.4 kg (400 g; 14.5 oz) per day. The best outcomes were associated with the highest intakes of meat.
Their other key findings included:
You and colleagues note that in ancient times meat provided over 50% of energy needs, whereas today carbohydrate foods provide more than 50% of energy needs.
In their analysis, they found that consuming carbohydrate crops –– cereals, starchy roots and sugars –– was not associated with reduced infant mortality nor increased lifespan. This indicated that the positive effect of meat-eating on life expectancy is due to its provision of vital nutrients other than calories, i.e. not due simply to caloric intake (which could as easily be provided by carbohydrate crops).
In The Hypercarnivore Diet (out of print for revision), I wrote:
“Longevity is based on faithful reproduction of cells to regenerate body tissues. Reproduction of cells and regeneration of tissues requires nutrients obtained from food. Aside from water, the main constituents of our cells and vital body tissues (muscles, bones, organs, brain) are animal protein, fat, cholesterol and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium).
“Greater meat-eating may promote longevity by providing large intake of highly bioavailable nutrients required for maintaining body tissues – such as protein, various fats (including essential fatty acids), cholesterol, vitamins and minerals – which would delay physical degeneration.”
Similarly, in their discussion of their findings, You and colleagues note:
“Meat contains high protein with all the essential amino acids, and is a good source of minerals (iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc) and vitamins (B12, B6, K, choline, niacin, riboflavin). Simply put –– a human animal consuming the body of another animal gets practically all constituent compounds of its own body.”
“The complete nutritional profile of meat and human adaptation to meat eating have enabled humans to gain many physical benefits, including greater life expectancy. Meat intake, or its adequate replacement, should be incorporated into nutritional science to improve human life expectancy.”
As the Vedic scripture Satapatha Brahmana says, animal flesh is the best kind of food.
You and colleagues note that, contrary to popular misconceptions promoted by "authorities," we lack evidence that vegetarian diets enhance longevity. Studies purported to find that vegetarian or plant-based diets contribute to a high life expectancy suffer from questionable study designs, including failure to account for overall healthier lifestyle patterns among vegetarians compared to general population. Many studies concentrate on subjects not representative of the general population, e.g. Seventh-day Adventists who have healthier lifestyles, including non-smoking, marital maintenance, regular exercise and maintaining a health body weight.
Further, they note that vegetarians may be able to maintain ‘health’ on their diets only when they avoid meat-related nutrient deficiency in one or more of the following ways:
Meat may indeed be the best of foods, but it is not the only suitable food for humans. Unlike cats, humans are not designed to be exclusive carnivores.
Exclusive carnivores do not have color vision, sweet taste receptors or enzyme systems dedicated to metabolism of dietary sugars.
These are just a few of the features of human biology that indicate that we are by Nature designed for a diet of meat and fruits.
In addition, many studies also link fruit intake to health and longevity. A review of research on the health effects of fruit consumption concluded that we have evidence that regular consumption of fruits may protect against many degenerative conditions including:
A 2020 systematic review of observational studies assessing association between mental health and fruit and vegetable intake in adults found that daily consumption of 6-8 daily servings of fruits or vegetables correlated with better mental health compared to lower intakes. More fruits than vegetables were linked to better mental health; in one of the reviewed studies, 7 of 10 types of produce associated with better mental health were fruits: bananas, apples, citrus, berries, grapefruits, kiwi, and cucumbers.
The Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that in 2017 about 2 million deaths and 65 million disability-adjusted life-years were attributable to low intake of fruits.2
Thus, when you eat both meat and fruits in proportions adjusted to your needs you powerfully support strength and health. That's why I call a diet of meats and sweets (fruits) a high vitality diet.
1. Haddad EH, Tanzman JS, “What do vegetarians in the United States eat?,” Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(3):626S-632S. <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/626S.long>
2. GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 [published correction appears in Lancet. 2021 Jun 26;397(10293):2466]. Lancet. 2019;393(10184):1958-1972. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30041-8
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