5 Surprising Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat
BY: DIANE HUEBNER-VUKOVIC
You may have already heard that eating too much meat is linked to a slew of health
problems, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Since meat is high in saturated fat and
cholesterol and low in fiber, it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that excess meat is bad for you. But
there are also many other less-obvious health benefits that come with cutting meat out of your diet. Whether
you are a dedicated vegan, a semi-vegetarian, or a meat-reducer, here are some of the surprising benefits which you
With 13% of Americans taking antidepressants, mental health is definitely
something that we should be worried about. It turns out that eating less meat may be one way to combat this
problem and boost our mental health. A recent study by researcher Bonnie Beezhold linked eating meat to poor
In the study, Beezhold first assessed the moods of people on a typical omnivore
diet. Then she divided them into groups. One group continued to eat meat, one switched to a pescatarian
diet (fish allowed), and one switched to a vegetarian diet. After two weeks, the subjects then had
their moods assessed again. The vegetarian group had shown significant improvements in mood, even more
than the fish group.
The reason that meat may be affecting our mental health is because it contains
high amounts of the fatty acid Omega 6. When consumed in large amounts, Omega 6 can cause problems like
depression, bipolar disorder. By cutting meat from your diet, you reduce Omega 6 intake and can get a boost
to your mood.
BETTER HORMONAL HEALTH
In the meat industry, it is common practice to give animals hormones like
estradiol (a form of estrogen), testosterone, and progesterone in order to increase growth. As the saying
goes, you are what you eat – and, yes, we humans do ingest these hormones when we eat meat.
There has been surprisingly little research as to whether these hormones are safe
for humans. Yet, the evidence we do have is worrisome. A 2010 study found that children who
consumed high amounts of animal protein entered puberty about 7 months before children who ate the least amount of
animal protein. Another study found that hormone residues in meat caused lower sperm counts in
Children and pregnant women are probably the most at risk to these bad side
effects, but it goes without saying that extra hormones are probably not something which will benefit any of
us. No wonder Europe, Australia, and Japan have banned hormone-treated meat from the US!
LESS BODY ODOR
Ever wonder why those hippy vegetarians can get away with going au naturel when
you have to load up on deodorant? Well, it turns out that meat may be to blame. In an interesting 2006
study, men were put on a vegetarian or meat-eating diet. Then samples of their body odor were taken and given
to women to sniff. The women then rated the body odor for its “pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and
intensity”. The men on the vegetarian diet consistently had their body odor rated better (as in less
stinky). This stayed the same even after the groups had their diets switched.
Why does meat make you stinky? The theory is that toxins from meat get
secreted along with sweat. The toxins may stink by themselves, but they also attract bacteria which feed on
them and produce smelly byproducts.
IMPROVED SEXUAL HEALTH
It is rather ironic that meat is associated with masculinity because the evidence
shows that meat actually diminishes sexual health.
Contrary to the whole meat=testosterone myth, one study actually found that vegan
men had 13% higher levels of testosterone than meat eaters. There are also potential problems which come with
eating hormone-infused meat. Since estrogen is one of the most common hormones used in meat production, men
can suffer from problems like low sperm count, infertility, and decreased semen volume.
And then there is the issue of erectile dysfunction, which we are all too aware of
thanks to the popularity of pills like Viagra. Erectile dysfunction is linked to a myriad of cardiovascular
problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and artery damage. Vegetarians have a 32% lower risk of
cardiovascular disease than their meat-eating counterparts. So, that means they’ve also got a reduced risk of
erectile dysfunction as well.
If you eat meat, here’s a scary fact for you: In a study of over 70,000 people,
researchers found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related issues compared to meat
eaters. This study only backs up the findings of many other studies which have found that vegetarians live
longer on average than meat eaters.
Of course, we know that the goal shouldn’t just be to live longer. Life is
possible on a life-support machine, after all! You want to make sure that you live a long and healthy
life. Since vegetarians have much lower incidences of heart disease, cancers, kidney stones, diabetes,
metabolic syndrome, and obesity, they are certainly likely to enjoy these extra years too.