Low-meat diets 'risk health'
Environmental groups are risking human health and the environment by recommending diets that are very low in meat, experts have warned.
WWF recently called for supermarkets to encourage consumers to move to a diet consisiting of just 4% meat to improve their health and reduce environmental impact. However, Philip Ridley, UK representative of nutritional charity the Western A. Price Foundation, told Meat Trades Journal that grass-fed meat is a vital source of fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which are required to metabolise protein and utilise minerals in the diet, and the essential fatty acids, omega 6 and omega 3.
“The “sustainable” low fat diet is therefore a recipe for nutritional deficiencies and degenerative disease,” he said.
He claimed that the theory that meat and saturated fat cause heart disease and cancer had never been scientifically proven and was based on biased and flawed research.
“Many health charities claiming to fight diseases like heart disease run with this flawed research to promote low fat plant based diets,” he said. “One worrying trend is their alliances with environmental charities who share the same vegetarian agenda, including recent joint research between Friends of the Earth and the British Heart Foundation.”
Prominent nutritional scientist Barry Groves also warned of the health dangers of a low meat diet. “The current dramatic increases in the ‘diseases of civilisation’ such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many more, are all directly attributable to eating an ‘eat well’, carbohydrate-based, low-fat diet,” he said. “We, like every other mammal on this planet, are designed and adapted to a high-fat, low- or no-carb diet.”
He pointed out that humans rely on livestock to turn grasslands unsuitable for crop production into food.“With so little of the Earth’s surface available for cultivation and the production of plant food for our every-growing population, not to make use of this enormous resource would surely be the height of stupidity,” he said.
Ridley argued that a dramatic reduction in meat consumption would actually damage the environment, because periodic grazing of livestock is vital to re-building topsoils, the loss of which is currently posing a huge threat to biodiversity and global food security.
Both Ridley and Groves stressed that a distinction needed to be made between grass-fed meat and intensively reared grain-fed meat, which has too too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3, and lacks fat soluble vitamins. The production of grain for animal feed also has significant environmental consequences, they warned.
However, promotion of grass fed meat could provide opportunities for the UK, where 80% of beef cattle diets and 90% of sheep diets are grass.