You Don't Have to Be Vegetarian to Live Longer

You Don't Have to Be Vegetarian to Live Longer

Once again, headline-grabbing health news is sending folks into a whirl, just like…well…exactly which political news story should we cite? How about this one: On November 3, 1948 the Chicago Tribune printed the front-page headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” That was just plain wrong, and so may be recent headlines declaring that eating any animal protein will send you to an earlier grave than eating a vegetarian diet.

True, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at data from two studies in which 170,000 participants were tracked for over 26 years and found meat-eaters had a shorter life span than non-meat eaters. But that’s not the complete story.

When they dug down into their data they found it’s the source of the protein, combined with lifestyle choices, that influences longevity. The worst outcomes from animal protein consumption afflicted study participants who were obese, medically underweight, serious drinkers, inactive and/or smoked! Turns out these folks went for burgers, salami and ribs—and were generally unhealthy. Taking in saturated fat and pro-inflammatory chemicals from red and processed meats amplified their health woes.

But active, normal-weight folks, who ate far more poultry and fish than red and processed meats, seemed to incur no damage from consuming chicken and fish. So don’t give up salmon and sea trout (loaded with anti-inflammatory, heart-lovin’ omega-3s), and stick with skinless poultry. Combined with 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you’ll get the protein, fiber, and nutrients you need to thrive—and survive the current, most-demanding election cycle.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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