Vegetarian Diet Vs Red Meat Consumption. Update On 11/2019.

October 13, 2019



An increasing number of studies are unraveling the benefits of plant based diets. Multiple medical and nonmedical outlets are encouraging people to consume more and more fruits and vegetables, and more and more consumers are paying heed to this dietary advice.


But as always there is at least two sides of the story.  There is a concern over the growing trend towards vegetarian or vegan diets, as they may put our brain health at risk. This is because choline, which is an essential nutrient, is largely missing from meat free eating plans.

Choline is "essential" in the sense that just like omega-3 fatty acids, the human body does not produce enough to meet its nutritional requirements. Therefore, getting choline from dietary sources is crucial.


Choline is vital for numerous aspects of good a metabolism, such as the synthesis of neurotransmitters, cell structure, and methylation, that allows our cells to function and also remove toxic byproduct of metabolism.


The deficiency can lead to liver disease, fatigue, depression, as well as impaired cognitive function in offspring, and even neurological disorders. The nutrient is key to the development of a healthy brain, particularly in the fetal stages.


Beef, eggs, dairy, fish, and chicken are the primary sources of this nutrient. Nuts, legumes, and vegetables, such as broccoli, contain the lowest amounts of choline. [1]


As more and more people following these diets, more data coming to light. The latest study revealed that vegetarians had 20% higher rates of hemorrhagic and total stroke than meat eaters.[2]


And by the way the latest meta-analysis of cohort studies focused on how dietary patterns, including different amounts of red or processed meat, affected all-cause mortality, cardiometabolic outcomes, and cancer incidence and death rate [3]. More than 100 studies including more than 6 million participants were analyzed. The overall conclusions were that dietary patterns, including differences in meat consumption, may result in only small differences in risk outcomes over long periods.


The second meta-analysis that looked specifically on studies examining how reductions in red and processed meat might affect cancer incidence and cancer related death [4]. It included 118 studies with more than 6 million participants, and it, too, found that the possible impact of reduced meat intake was very small.


The third study was a meta-analysis of cohort studies that looked specifically at meat consumption and its relationship to all-cause mortality (risk of dying) and cardiometabolic outcomes [5], and—once again—it found that any link was very small.


And finally, the newest guideline, based on the latest data, voted on by 14 members, including 3 community members, from 7 countries and had strict criteria concerning conflicts of interest, suggested that adults continue to eat their current levels of red meat, unless they felt inclined to change them themselves.[6]


As you can see, the data supports that balance nutrition, like Mediterranean diet, allows our body utilize different beneficial and essential nutrients from the variety of sources.


For more information on different diets and healthy lifestyle please make an appointment with Dr. Val Koganski by calling 215-750-7000, or online:



1.Derbyshire E Could we be overlooking a potential choline crisis in the United Kingdom? BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2019;bmjnph-2019-000037. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2019-000037

2.Tong Tammy Y N, et al. Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up: results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study. BMJ 2019; 366 :l4897  

3. Vernooij RWM, et al. Patterns of red and processed meat consumption and risk for cardiometabolic and cancer outcomes. A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Ann Intern Med1 October 2019 [Epub ahead of print]

4. Han MA, et al. Reduction of red and processed meat intake and cancer mortality and incidence. A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Ann Intern Med1 October 2019 [Epub ahead of print]

5. Zeraatkar D, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and risk for all-cause mortality and cardiometabolic outcomes. A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Ann Intern Med1 October 2019 [Epub ahead of print]

6. Johnston BC, Zeraatkar D, Han MA. et al .Unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption: dietary guideline recommendations .Ann Intern Med1 October 2019 [Epub ahead of print]





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