Cutting down the amount of red meat we eat not only affects our physical health, but also the health of the environment, a new study from the United Kingdom suggests.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that cutting back on red meat consumption could decrease the number of cases of chronic disease by 3 to 12 percent, and make the carbon footprint nearly 28 million tons smaller per year by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
The BMJ Open study included data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of British Adults in 2000-2001. Researchers looked at the amount of meat the people in the study consumed, as well as how many green gas emissions were emitted that are linked to 45 different kinds of food.
After adjusting for proportions, the researchers found that people who regularly ate red or processed meat in the study also just generally consumed more food than people who didn't regularly eat red or processed meat. So, they calculated that if people who ate the most red and processed meat in the study were to adjust their eating habits so they ate like the people who consumed the least red and processed meat in the study, that would decrease health risks (such as risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and heart disease) anywhere from 3 to 12 percent.
Specifically, the Telegraph reported that if men with an average meat consumption of 91 grams per day cut it down to 53 grams per day, it would translate to a 12 percent decrease in colorectal cancer and Type 2 diabetes risks.
Plus, the decreased greenhouse gas emissions linked with food and beverages would decrease each year by about 0.45 tons per person, the researchers calculated.
Even though the data is from 2000 and 2001, the researchers noted that red meat consumption hasn't changed significantly over the last 10 years.
"This indicates that our estimates remain relevant and may even be conservative and highlights the need for action to prevent further increases in intake in the UK population," the researchers wrote in the study.
Previous research has shown a possible link between processed meat consumption and cancer risk, with an extra 50 grams a day of processed meat being linked with a 19 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a British Journal of Cancer study.
And even more recently, a group of water scientists has predicted that the whole world is going to be vegetarian anyhow by 2050, in order to accommodate growing population growth.
"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations," according to the report by Malik Falkenmark and other scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute noted, as reported by The Guardian.