Excessive meat-eating 'kills 45,000 each year'

Lowering meat consumption in the UK would prevent about 45,000 premature deaths a year, according to a new study.

Oxford University's heart unit analysed the health consequences of a range of diets, concluding that eating meat no more than three times a week would prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from strokes each year, saving the NHS £1.2bn.

Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the research for its Healthy Planet Eating report, published today, said reducing meat consumption would also help slow the rates of climate change and deforestation.

Population growth, rising affluence and factory farming have helped to quadruple global meat consumption since 1961, with the average Briton now consuming 125kg of meat a year. According to the report, average intake represents 17 per cent of calories, a third more than the Food Standards Agency's recommendation of 12 per cent.

In health terms, red meat is strongly linked with bowel cancer, while meat and dairy products high in saturated fat are causes of obesity and heart disease. Environmentally, South American rainforests are being cleared – releasing climate change emissions – to grow animal feed and rear cattle for export to Europe.

The former Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has urged the public to eat less meat, saying in a 2010 report: "Our diet is warming the planet. It is also damaging our health." He calculated that cutting consumption by 30 per cent would prevent 18,000 premature deaths a year.

Oxford University assessed what would happen if the fall were steeper – from the current average of 177g of meat and dairy a day to 70g or 31g, well below the World Health Organisation's recommended 160g. It estimated that 70g a day would prevent 32,352 early deaths a year and 31g – eating meat moderately no more than two or three times a week – would prevent 45,361 deaths.

Friends of the Earth complained that the UK tended to have an "all or nothing" attitude towards meat eating, with no commonly accepted term for people who eat meat a few times a week. The scale of waste indicated that meat had become "artificially cheap and plentiful", it said.

The group added that ministers should promote a low-meat diet, campaign against waste and change public buying contracts to insist on environmental and welfare standards.

The report's publication comes in the run-up to a Commons vote next month on the Sustainable Livestock Bill, tabled by the Labour MP Robert Flello, which would force the Government to introduce an action plan to lessen the environmental impact of livestock farming and reduce meat eating.

Dr Mike Rayner, of Oxford University's Department of Public Health, said: "This research demonstrates the clear health benefits of cutting down on meat and dairy in the UK and quantifies this more comprehensively than ever before."

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth policy director, said: "We don't need to go vegetarian to look after ourselves and our planet – but we do need to cut down on meat."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

    £500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN TAWe are looking to recrui...

    Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

    £40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

    Test Job

    TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis