Here's How Much Longer You Can Live When You Give up Meat

May 11th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Scientists are always trying to ruin all the fun for meat lovers, and their latest effort confirms what several studies have previously indicated: Eating meat raises your mortality rate and puts you at risk for numerous diet-related diseases.

An analysis of six major studies, which followed more than 1.5 million people in the U.S., Europe, West Australia, and Asia (including China and Japan) over long stretches of time (from 5.5 years to 28 years) found that a person's diet can directly impact their health and lifespan. The study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, argues that meat is, in fact, killing us.

What does meat do to your health?

Eating red meat — and especially processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage, and ham — makes a person more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancer, and it's also associated with higher rates of diabetes and increased blood pressure, Munchies reports. Plenty of studies, including one this year about the dangers bacon has on your health, have prepared us for this finding.

"This data reinforces what we have known for so long — your diet has great potential to harm or heal," Brookshield Laurent, the study's co-author and a professor at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a news release. "This clinical-based evidence can assist physicians in counseling patients about the important role diet plays, leading to improved preventive care, a key consideration in the osteopathic philosophy of medicine."

Eating less red meat isn't any safer, according to the study.

Interestingly, researchers found that "the steepest increase in mortality was found at the smallest increases of intake" of red meat and processed meat. That is, even eating small amounts of meat "may have an impact on mortality risk," the study authors wrote. This finding appears to runs counter to past recommendations from health experts, which suggest that eating less meat could improve a person's health.

So bad news for meat lovers, but what about vegetarians and vegans? As earlier research has previously indicated, a vegan diet is associated with decreased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and it has actually been shown to reverse the harms of cardiovascular disease.

If you needed any more reason to opt for salad over steak, here it is.

Adhering to a strict vegetarian diet for 17 years or longer can make you live longer — up to 3.6 years longer, according to the study. Short-term vegetarian diets also had lifespan benefits, but the data made clear that a long-term strategy can literally save your life. That's because "vegetarians tend to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol and more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as carotenoids and flavonoids," Harvard Medical School reports.

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