Controversy about meat, and veggie burgers

A controversial report questioning the importance of any risk posed by processed and red meat made headlines in late 2019. A series of articles published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people on diets low in red and processed meat had lower CVD, cancer, and all-cause mortality. However, the Annals authors claimed that the research showed that consumption of processed and red meat caused only trivial increases in CVD risk, the research methodology of studies was too flawed, and overall, the evidence was too weak to serve as guidance for the public. The study concluded that the health benefits were just not clear enough or great
enough to suggest changing diets to reduce or giving eating up red and processed meat.

The push back from leading nutrition scientists was immediate and scathing. Some of them demanded the retraction of the articles. They pointed out that the most scientifically sound research methods, such as randomized controlled trials
of people on a fixed diet over many years, are just not feasible for nutritional research. Critics of the Annals article noted that the conclusions of the observational research methods that are used in much nutritional research are valid. The
vast majority of studies show that red and processed meat consumption increases the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Critics of the Annals article also pointed out that the lead author had industry funding that constituted an undisclosed
conflict of interest. My advice is to stick with the recommendations of the nutrition experts and minimize the consumption of red and processed meat.

Veggie burgers or meatless burgers are a rapidly growing option that in 2019 were available at 20,000 restaurants across the U.S. Some of these products may be highly processed and high in sugar, salt, and fat. For example, Beyond Meat’s ingredients
for its plant-based patties are high in sodium and saturated fat. They include water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, and other natural flavors. Ingredients for Impossible Foods burgers are also high in sodium and saturated fat. They include water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin, and natural flavors. Artificial meats may or may not be healthy for the environment but do not always fit the profile of healthy foods for human consumption.

It is important to read the labels of meatless burgers because some may be healthy foods, but others are not. Another important reason to cut back on eating meat, especially from ruminants such as beef cattle and sheep that emit large amounts of methane, is because global livestock production is the source of about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. There is little evidence that more than the recommended minimum of about 10% to 15% of total calories from protein a day are beneficial. Avoiding high red and processed meat consumption is advisable to support both human health and the health of the planet.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.