Is eating meat necessary? Optimal?
THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU
Hint: it’s more important to not eat processed refined junk foods.
Exhibit A. The BROAD study: a randomized controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease, or diabetes (Wright et al., 2017)
Tl;dr: it worked.
The longer version: it was a low-fat vegan diet supplemented with 50 ug B12 (methylcobalamin) daily.
“Participants were advised to eat until satiation.
We placed no restriction on total energy intake.
Participants were asked to not count calories.”
Three sentences to make this point! And it worked — they spontaneously ate less and were just as satisfied with their diet. The participants were given cooking lessons!
Of course any diet can work short-term, but this one worked long-term (1 year). Why? I don’t think it was the lack of meat; I think it was the lack of junk foods — in other words, it was a Hunger-Free Diet:
Critiques: they assessed diet but didn’t report it. From the recommended foods list it looks like it may have been low in protein… which makes me wonder about changes in body composition (which wasn’t assessed). In any case, they stopped eating meat, lost weight, and HbA1c improved.
No vitamin or mineral deficiencies; in fact the opposite happened: they got healthier.
I’m not anti-meat. I’m pro-high protein and animal foods are a good way to do it… but not the only way.
Exhibit B. Vegetarian diet and all-cause mortality: evidence from a large population-based Australian cohort – the 45 and Up Study (Mihrshahi et al., 2017)
“Following extensive adjustment for potential confounding factors there was no significant difference in all-cause mortality for vegetarians versus non-vegetarians.”
In sum, eating meat doesn’t kill you. It doesn’t make you live longer, either. It’s really not that big a deal unless you’re trying to do high protein and don’t wanna chug down vegan protein shakes all day. It’s more important to not eat processed refined junk foods.