I’ve wanted to write an “In the News” section since I began this blog, but I was concerned that there would not be enough stories related in some way to veganism to sustain it. However, now that I’m about three months in, I’ve noticed that there is plenty to talk about. As plant-based diets grow more and more popular, people are beginning to recognize the value of eating vegan. People are also beginning to realize that eating meat is not all its cracked up to be. Today, I bring you the first “In the News” segment. This story was a pretty big one. My guess is that most of you already read about it, but in case you didn’t…
The World Health Organization has deemed that processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs – cause cancer. In addition, the WHO says red meats including beef, pork, veal and lamb are “probably carcinogenic” to people.
Allison Aubrey, NPR
The findings: 22 scientists reviewed outstanding evidence that linked red and processed meat consumption to cancer. The findings of this review were published in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best-known medical journals, and conclude that eating processed meats regularly does increases the risk of cancer.
Why it’s important: As a result of this panel’s findings, The WHO now classifies processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos. Despite processed meats’ new incriminating company, all the articles about this study are quick to highlight that their consumption is not as likely to cause cancer as either smoking cigarettes or asbestos. As much as I would have loved for these scientists to say that all meat consumption was absolutely unsafe, it seems that eating processed meats in a limited fashion is probably alright for your health (although it’s certainly not alright for the environment, and I’d argue the cruelty involved is not worth a hot dog). To my meat lovin’ friends: Dariush Mozzafarian, dean of Tufts’ School of Nutrition Science and Policy recommends eating “no more than one to two servings per month of processed meats, and no more than one to two servings per week of unprocessed meats.” I’d consider taking his advice!
Although it’s always validating when SCIENCE indirectly supports your lifestyle decisions, the most exciting part of this news was that the World Health Organization, whom many countries look to for recommendations when setting nutritional guidelines, released this study at all. This would probably not have been possible in the US, where big agriculture is heavily involved in policy-making. Case and point: the recently revised USDA dietary guidelines did not include sustainability considerations because of major push-backs from the North American Meat Institute (who, shockingly, also object to the WHO’s findings as well). Nevertheless, it seems The World Health Organization is not beholden to NAMI, which is great for everyone’s health, everywhere. Hopefully soon, we will begin seeing updated dietary recommendations from other countries that severely limit the suggested servings of meat. This will be critical moving forward, considering meat production continues to rise world-wide.
As evidence from my Facebook feed, it would seem that a lot of people are devastated by the idea of eating less bacon. I’m here to tell you that a bacon-less world is a joy to live in. It’s also a lot healthier of a world to live in. That being said, this news is hardly a shock to us that follow a vegan or plant-based diet. We’ve long been skeptical about the touted benefits of eating meat, especially since study after study shows that vegetarians and vegans are, overall, a lot healthier than our omnivorous counterparts. For example, a study in England and Germany from 1992 showed that vegetarians were about 40% less likely to develop cancer than those who regularly ate meat. Honestly, I’m surprised this study was news to anyone considering that bacon has never been lauded for its health benefits, and no one I know is capable of naming what is actually in a hot dog. Still, this study makes me feel vindicated in my decision to eat vegan. I’ll just stick to my B12 supplements and plant-based meats, thank you very much! Every day in modern society, we are exposed to carcinogens – whether from something as sinister as air pollution or from something as omnipresent as the sun – but I am glad that I will not be exposing myself to more via the foods that I eat.
Tonight’s “carcinogenic-free” fuel was Happy Healthy Life’s Southwest Veggie Lentil Soup, tomorrow it will be with red beans and rice, and Thursday will bring spaghetti. That lineup hardly sounds like a sacrifice to me.
Happy (and healthy!) munching, folks!