People perceive diet as only having a limited effect on health and longevity, and commonly do not see going vegetarian as a healthy option. We’re told that meat is necessary for everyone’s health, especially if you are a younger woman. However, new research has found that a mostly vegetarian diet has a significant impact on early deaths. What they mean by “early” is unclear, though this commonly means before 60, 65 or 80 depending on who you ask.
Going Vegetarian and Mortality
How much can human mortality be reduced by going vegetarian? Well, a large study by researchers at Harvard found that a vegetarian, but not necessarily vegan, diet can prevent at least one-third of all “early” deaths (with people being irreplaceable, and how increasing longevity is a necessary cause and result of consciousness-based evolution, isn’t every death early?). This, as you can see, is not simply deaths from one cause, but all causes. It is also not inclusive of quitting smoking, regular physical activity or any other action to prevent disease, and it does not include all flow-on effects of a balanced vegetarian diet, such as fighting obesity.
Going vegetarian technically doesn’t just save your own life. When the average American’s meat consumption was calculated, it turned out that a vegetarian in the USA statistically saves 404 animals every year! That’s 34 land animals, 219 fish and 151 shellfish – and these are conservative estimates. Of course, it does not count conservation of natural habitats, and the numbers may be different in Australia or your country, but this does demonstrate the effect we all have with our everyday choices. And no, plants cannot feel pain; they may be able to send and receive information like a biological computer, but what is the point of evolving even the ability to feel pain if they can’t escape threats?
How Do We Change Our Diets – And Our Minds?
Transitioning to a balanced, mostly- or fully-vegetarian diet, however, will take some adjustments to our perception of food. As Dr Oz stated while hosting this panel, he has been to many events where the provided meals usually consisted of meat and a few vegetables around it. When his wife told waiters that she is vegetarian, they simply took the meat away and left her without much to eat at all! Another speaker described the need to produce plant-based alternatives which are similar to meat in sensory terms, but these are quite processed. For myself, it is typical for me to live off of vegetarian curries, chilli bean dishes, spicy vegetable omelettes, fruit and yoghurt; I don’t need the taste or texture of meat.
How do we transition to plant-based diets, and what is an appropriate amount of meat for those of us who need it? Research on the Blue Zones, which currently have the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world, found that meat is typically consumed no more than four or five times a month, or once a week on average. If you need to do this, but are interested in being vegetarian for ethical reasons and would like to quantify your impact, just subtract one day per week from online calculators. The Blue Zones website also has an ever-growing list of vegetarian recipes, which can help you get started as they are neither rabbit food nor involve processed meat substitutes. To conclude, a vegetarian diet may be the key to a long, healthy life for most people, and while you can have bacon and eggs for a Sunday breakfast, keep it to Sundays.