When our vegetarian ancestors started
eating meat around two million years ago,
it wasn’t just because animals taste great,
it was pure necessity.
Climate change made many of the plants our ancestors
relied on less available and meat bridged that gap.
From the discovery of fire at the latest,
meat became a staple of the human diet.
But over the last few years eating meat has
increasingly been associated with health risks like:
heart disease, certain cancers, and an early death.
So how unhealthy is meat, really?
In this video we’ll only talk about meat.
Dairy products deserve a video of their own.
Biologically, we need to eat for three reasons:
for energy, to acquire materials to fabricate our cells,
and to get special molecules
that our bodies can’t make themselves.
The energy and most of the materials come from the
three macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
Proteins are the most important resource for
repairing and replenishing our cell structures.
The special molecules are a large variety of vitamins
and minerals we need to drive metabolic processes.
Meat provides us with most of these things.
It contains all essential amino acids
our body needs and a lot of minerals like:
iron, zinc and essential vitamins, some of which are
barely found in plants like Vitamin B12.
Only one essential nutrient is missing
in most of the meat we consume: vitamin C.
It appears in almost all plants
and supports our immune system
as well as the development of connective tissues.
After a few months without it you’d get scurvy.
But meat has another big advantage,
it’s high bioavailability.
Some of the nutrients in meat are broken down
faster and available quicker than those from plants.
Spinach for example, contains more iron than meat,
but it’s absorbed much slower
and the body needs more energy to digest it.
Several health benefits have also been
observed in communities that rely solely on meat.
The Inuit for example, are able to survive in extreme
climate conditions thanks to a purely meat-based diet.
Since they consume the whole animal including
the organs, they get every single nutrient they need
including vitamin C.
So meat itself is definitely not dangerous for us.
But its health effects vary, depending on
how its prepared and what animal it comes from.
When talking about meat in the Western world,
we generally mean muscle tissues
that have a high nutrient density,
but also lack some of the vitamins that
make it possible to survive on meat alone.
The most healthy animals to eat are probably fish.
Fish contains polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3,
which may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases
and support anti-inflammatory immune functions.
As part of a balanced diet,
fish can be eaten regularly without worries.
Eating fish comes with its own bag of complications though,
like overfishing and the destruction of the oceans.
We’ll talk about that in another video.
A close second is the most popular meat, chicken.
It’s regarded as the meat with the fewest health risks.
The only negative health effect
of poultry is a bit controversial:
It’s high content of saturated fats is associated with a
higher cholesterol level and cardiovascular disease.
But this idea has also been criticized
by a large number of scientists
arguing high cholesterol levels might be
inherited and not caused by nutrition.
So in general, if you want meat and are
concerned about your health, go for chicken.
Things start to get problematic with high intakes of
red meats like beef, veal, pork, lamb, horse and goat.
A recently published study recommends for
example a maximum of 23 grams of red meat per day
which is a very small steak per week.
However, large-scale meta-analysis studies have shown that eating 100 grams of red meat every day
increases the risk of diabetes by 19%,
of strokes by 11% and of colorectal cancer by 17%.
This sounds alarming. But before we panic,
let’s have a look at how these studies were conducted.
Because this brings us to the second big problem
when trying to answer the question of
whether meat is unhealthy or not.
Most studies that linked health risks to
eating red meat were case-control studies.
Which means taking a group of people with a disease
and classifying them by their eating habits.
The more red meat they consume, the more likely
they were to contract certain diseases.
The problem is that it’s very hard
to eliminate other factors.
People who eat less meat tend to
live a healthier lifestyle in general.
They tend to eat more vegetables and fruit
and are less likely to smoke and drink alcohol.
Most studies try to eliminate these factors,
but it’s extremely hard to make definitive statements.
Things get worse when
we look at processed meat though.
Processing meat means adding certain chemicals by
curing, smoking, sorting or fermenting
or in other words making it delicious.
Bacon, ham, salami, sausages and hot dogs
contain chemicals that are harmful for us
like nitrates and nitrites that can damage the DNA
in our digestive system and lead to cancer.
The w-h-o reviewed 800 studies over 20 years,
and concluded that processed wheat is strongly
linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Each extra 50 grams of processed meat per day
increases your risk of cancer by 18 percent.
When it comes to cancer risk, processed meat is now in the same category as plutonium,
asbestos and smoking.
The w-h-o highlights that it’s research is
only about the question of whether or not something
causes cancer and not to what extent.
But processed meat may also significantly
increase the chance of suffering from
diabetes, strokes and coronary heart diseases.
It also makes a difference what sort of life
our meat lived when it was still part of a living being.
It’s common to feed large
amounts of antibiotics to livestock
in order to prevent diseases
which can spread antibiotic resistance.
Combined, a high consumption of
both red and processed meat
could increase your chance of
premature death by up to 29%.
This means if your chance of dying
is at 3% this year, it’s now 4%.
This might not sound like a lot but tiny percentages
have a huge impact on societies of millions.
They also seem harmless until they affect you.
To blame meat alone for
bad health would be wrong though.
There is no evidence that the very essence of meat
has any negative effect beyond it’s high fat content.
And even this point is highly contentious.
Just like with many other pleasures in life,
sometimes too much of a good thing is harmful.
Most public health agencies suggest cutting
meat consumption to 500 grams a week
while studies suggest cutting down
processed meat as much as possible.
So if you feast on meat no more than once
or twice a week, you should be good.
For most people this already means
a drastic change in their diets though,
The average American consumes around
almost 1600 grams of meat a week.
The average German 1100 grams a week.
And many of us needs much much more.
If you’re not really sure, make a small note
whenever you eat meat for a week or two.
You’ll be surprised how much it really is.
So most people watching this video
would benefit from cutting down on meat.
Aside from health concerns,
there’s still the fact that the meat industry is
one of the largest contributors to climate change
and has reached a scale where it’s
impossible to deliver millions of tons of meat
and still treat animals with dignity.
We’ve already discussed that in detail in another video.
All in all, in moderation, meat is not unhealthy
and you don’t need to become vegetarian overnight
to have a real impact on your health and the planet.
But your lifestyle choices do matter.
For yourself and for others.
The key is being open to
trying something new once in a while.
Maybe you’ll discover your new favourite dish.
Until you try you’ll never know what
you’ll enjoy or what you’re capable of.
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Learning about design principles first before we got
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There’s a really great new Skillshare class
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The software we use to create artwork
by graphic designer Aaron Draplin
and we can personally recommend it.
It’s full of great tips to help understand and
simplify a very complicated program.
If you want to do more afterwards, we have
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