Even the Utah Beef Council admits that “several epidemiological studies indicate that vegetarians have lower morbidity and mortality from chronic degenerative diseases. Today, vegetarians make up only about two percent of the population, but every day more and more people are giving up eating red meat or tofu for their first bite. Besides ethics, what are the main reasons why people turn away from meat? Health and ecology.
Lower rates of illness among vegetarians
Hundreds of different studies agree, showing that vegetarians who eat a balanced diet have lower rates of coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity and some cancers. According to Winston Craig, a registered dietitian, eating meat costs Americans between $30 billion and $60 billion a year in medical costs for hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity and meat-related foodborne illness. According to Craig, a vegetarian diet is associated with lower cholesterol, blood pressure and obesity.
In 1997, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended a vegetarian diet to reduce the risk of cancer. Long-time vegetarians have 24% less heart disease, while vegans have an astonishing 57% reduction. An extensive study of a vegetarian religious group, the Seventh-Day Adventists, found that vegetarians had half the rates of hypertension and diabetes, half the rates of colon cancer, and half the rates of arthritis and prostate cancer compared to other groups (2001). In addition, Cornell University reported that eating less meat was more effective in reducing osteoporosis than supplementing the diet with calcium.
Do you have to be a complete vegetarian to benefit?
In 1999, a meta-analysis of several studies on the mortality of vegetarians and vegans was conducted. The results of these studies were compared with each other and re-analysed. The researchers concluded that even reducing the amount of meat in your diet had a significant effect on reducing your rate of illness. People who ate meat only once a week had a 20% lower heart death rate and their overall mortality rate was reduced by 10%.
Those who ate only fish had a 34% decrease in their heart disease mortality rate, while their overall mortality rate was reduced by 18%.
Similarly, the more you reduce your consumption of animal products, the more you seem to benefit. Only 7% of the vegans studied died of cancer (lung, stomach and colorectal). It is alarming to note that 19% of deaths in the United States are due to cancer.
Vegetarian diets are good for the planet
Every year, meat eaters contribute to the livestock industry. This industry uses farmland that could produce human food to make grain for cows. As most people know, cows produce large amounts of methane gas, which is toxic to the environment. Raising cows also uses precious water resources.
Vegetarianism and the rainforest
What you may not know is that meat consumption also contributes to the destruction of tropical forests. In an effort to make a cheaper Big Mac and Whopper, companies are raising cattle in Central America, where labour and other costs are lower. Central Americans are eager to cut and burn their native rainforests to make room for the cattle industry.
Vegetarianism and carbon dioxide emissions
Estimates show that a vegetarian diet saves 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person per year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that the production of one calorie of animal protein requires ten times more fossil fuel than the production of one calorie of plant protein. Wow, and according to the New Scientist, a vegan diet reduces carbon dioxide emissions more than driving a hybrid car.
Vegetarianism and Water Reserves
The most disturbing thing is that each hamburger from a rainforest cow required the destruction of about 55 square feet of rainforest. In addition, studies show that one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. The water used to produce one hamburger is enough for two weeks of daily showers.