We have all heard the old joke that going veggie’ does not make you live longer, it just feels that way. I must admit that 18 months ago I first fell under the persuasive spell of Dr Dean Ornish and Dr T Campbell who are passionate veggie preachers but these days I am a little less convinced. On the other side of the fence are the likes of the Paleo diet enthusiasts who firmly believe that meat forms a logical and healthy part of our natural diet. There is strong evidence to suggest that veggie’s do not really live any longer but do they have healthier hearts ?. With population based studies it is very difficult to seperate out all the variables and decide which have the strongest influence. For example seven day eventist’s have better health records than the average meat eater (most are veggies), but being religous its quite likely that they are less likely to smoke and no doubt have stronger social support networks.
One group of people that I recently found interesting was the Masai tribe. These people were investigated by that incredible dentist (yes you would love to have a doctor of his calibre let alone a dentist), Dr Weston Price. Back in the early 20th century he was checking these people out along with their neighboring tribe the Akikuyu. The Masai have a diet dominated by milk, meat and animal blood. The Akikuyu have a diet that is much closer to being veggie. The contrast between the two is clear. The Masai are taller, stronger and have little or no teeth cavities (hard for Price to take a day off it seems). The Akikuyu were healthy and had good teeth by Western standards but were inferior to the Masai. It should also be noted that the Masai tend to eat animal organs eg liver, heart kidneys etc and throw the leans muscle meat to the dogs.
Masai who were found to have moved to the cities were not surprisingly in much poorer health than their country cousins who display little or no heart disease.
My take on all this is that meat per se is not bad for you but the modern form of meat we eat in the west probably is. When you eat meat you have to take into account what the meat ate and this is where we run into trouble. Western meat is generally factory farmed and fed on grains so by eating the meat we are getting an extra dose of poor quality grains in addition to the crap we are consuming in our bread, breakfast cereals and so on.
If you can get truly free range meat then by all means stay with it. I will occasionally eat free range chicken and a little more frequently lambs liver. Buffalo would be a good choice too as I would hope that buffalo has not reached the stage yet where its trussed up in shed and force fed grain swill. Take care when enquiring about it though, I went in one restaurant recently that was a steak restaurant and asked the waitress if they served buffalo, she said yes and pointed to the buffalo wings on the menu. (no I am not trying to end on a joke, it actually happened)
Here is a link to Chris Masterjohns research into grass V grain fed beef
FOOTNOTE- What an appropriate name for the good doctor given the effects of our diet on healthy populations