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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

But Even Small Amounts of Any Animal-Source Foods Are Bad for You

A major study that has just been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that eating a lot of red meat increases the risk of death, especially the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and cancer. I’m glad that this message is getting out. However, I wish that people were told the whole story: Nutrition researchers have known since 1994 that eating even small amounts of any animal-based food increases the risk of death. There doesn’t seem to be any safe level of intake. We know that from the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a massive study that was undertaken in China starting in the 1970s. That study included some populations that were eating extremely small amounts of animal-based foods. It found that there didn’t seem to be any “safe” level of intake of meat, eggs, fish, and dairy foods. 

Of course, people don’t want to hear that they can’t eat any meat. They want to hear that a little bit is okay. They especially want to hear that the foods they like can be part of a “healthy, balanced diet.” Many people especially want to hear that they should dine on expensive seafood instead of eating cheap hot dogs. In reality, however, the scientific evidence has been showing for decades that eating any animal-source food poses a needless risk.

The USDA urges people to eat animal-based foods, even though the scientific evidence clearly shows that that those foods are the major underlying causes of our major causes of death and disability. By doing so, the USDA is violating federal law. According to U.S. federal law (7 USC § 5341 [2011]), the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are expected to issue Dietary Guidelines for Americans at least every 5 years. These guidelines are intended for the general public and “shall be promoted by each federal agency in carrying out any federal food, nutrition, or health program.” The information and guidelines in each report “shall be based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge which is current at the time the report is prepared.” In other words, it’s a violation of federal law for the USDA to urge us to eat food that scientific research has shown is bad for us.

The 2010 guidelines urge Americans to eat lots of “protein foods.” Yet nutrition scientists have known since the early 20th century that human protein requirements are so low that they are met automatically if people eat enough unrefined starches and vegetables to get enough calories. The nutritionists who designed European food rationing systems during World War I knew that fact. In 1917, the famous British nutrition researcher Sir William Maddock Bayliss wrote, “Take care of the calories and the protein will take care of itself.” In Denmark, Dr. Mikkel Hindhede designed an almost exclusively plant-based rationing system to prevent starvation during World War I. As a result, Denmark enjoyed the lowest death rate in its history. The people of the United States deserve to know these things. It's a matter of life and death.


  1. This study has been debunked. And even if it _hadn't_ been debunked, the results showed only a 0.2 fold increase in risk of death. Compare this to the 30 fold increase in the risk of lung cancer from smoking , and it quickly becomes apparent that causation cannot be usefully teased out of this association. You'll have to try again.

  2. The China Study was conducted by eminent researchers at two of the world's most prestigious universities. It has been "debunked" by a bunch of people who don't seem to have any sort of university post and seem to have had no luck in getting their work published in any of the peer-reviewed journals, which is not surprising if you look at the quality of the material they post on the Internet.

    So let's not pretend that the "debunking" of the China Study is serious scientific criticism.