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SMC: The question of meat eating

The question of meat eating
A review published today in Science has highlighted the health and environmental impacts of meat consumption.

With a growing global population and meat consumption on the rise in many middle-income countries, the review authors argued that governments and health organisations could play a role in encouraging people to cut back on red and processed meat.

The review highlighted the health burden of high red and processed meat consumption, particularly colorectal cancer. Transition to a more plant-based diet could reduce global mortality rates by 6-10 per cent, the authors wrote.

University of Otago senior research fellow Dr Cristina Cleghorn said it was "possible for people to meet their nutritional needs without consuming meat and substantial reductions in meat intake would have a net positive impact on health".

Beef + Lamb New Zealand head of nutrition Fiona Grieg countered that "the body of evidence supports a moderate amount of lean red meat within a healthy diet". She said recommended diets had lower environmental impacts than a typical, overconsumption diet. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health's guidelines include 500g of cooked red meat a week.

Environmental impacts - particularly agricultural greenhouse gas emissions - also featured in the Science review. Massey University's Professor Robert McLachlan said it was "striking that the main issues worldwide — nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, water use, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions — are the same as those we are grappling with in New Zealand".

He emphasised that change was possible. "In New Zealand, the consumption of red meat has fallen by 58 per cent in just 10 years, and is now close to the average for rich nations, and close to recommended health limits on a population basis.”

Victoria University of Wellington's Associate Professor Taciano L. Milfont said the review made it clear that quantifying the effects of meat consumption "is not an easy task". Through the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, Dr Milfont hopes to measure Kiwi dietary preference and social norms regarding meat consumption.

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the review.

Quoted: The Spinoff
"Let’s remember we don’t have the benefit of time here.

"With over 50 bird species alone lost to extinction since humans got here, and now more than 4000 species dangling precariously on the cliff-edge on our threatened species list, New Zealand is very firmly in a biodiversity crisis."
DOC threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki
on a media report drawing a link between dumped 1080 on Stewart Island and kiwi deaths.

Cochrane omega-3 review
A Cochrane review examining data from 79 randomised trials has found little to no evidence that omega-3 supplements boost heart health or reduce stroke risk.

The review combined results from 79 randomised trials involving more than 112,000 people, and concluded: "Taking more long-chain omega-3 fats (including EPA and DHA), primarily through supplements probably makes little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities."
Professor Wayne Cutfield, of the Liggins Institute, told the NZ Herald the review added to a growing mountain of evidence showing omega-3 supplements did not benefit heart health or reduce the risk of stroke.
But he added that omega-3 supplements weren't the same as fresh fish, which should be kept in our diets.

The review's findings supported the idea that omega-3 from plant-based or nut-based sources probably did go some way to reduce some blood fats, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.
"There are many potential roles omega-3 supplements could play in health and well-being. Heart health is not one of these," Cutfield said.
"However other roles are still being explored through randomised controlled trials."
University of Wollongong's Professor Barbara Meyer, who recently published a study on the effects of omega-3 on heart health, questioned the strength of the review because it included studies that had a low dose of omega-3. "And therefore had little or no chance of showing any beneficial effect of omega-3s".

British dietitian Victoria Taylor said the review was further evidence supplements should not be relied on for nutrients, rather a Mediterranean diet provided the best balance. "We need to focus on our whole diet rather than the use of supplements of individual nutrients to ward off heart disease.”

The SMC gathered expert commentary on the review.

SAVVY applications closing soon
Applications for two Science Media SAVVY workshops in Auckland are closing in early August.

We're holding two 2-day Science Media SAVVY training workshops in Auckland in September.
Sept 3-4 – Media SAVVY for Māori researchers
Sept 6-7 – Science Media SAVVY
These highly-acclaimed workshops offer researchers first-hand insight into the workings of news and social media, as well as hands-on, practical exercises to improve communication.

Our experienced facilitators provide a supportive environment for researchers to consider their work from different perspectives and find new ways to describe the value of their research to the public.

Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, as well as beginners anticipating media interest in their work.

Applications for the Sept 6-7 Auckland workshop close Aug 5. Apply now.

More information about our Science Media SAVVY workshops is available on our website and via Curious Minds.

Media training for Māori researchers

In partnership with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, our tailored workshops for Māori researchers invite guest speakers from Māori and mainstream media to share their insights, and offer opportunities for Māori researchers to discuss common issues and perspectives.

Workshop fees have been waived, thanks to support from Curious Minds - He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara. Travel and accommodation funding support may be available - please see the application for details.

Applications for the Sept 3-4 Auckland workshop close Aug 5. Apply now.

Find out more about Media SAVVY for Māori researchers.

Policy news & developments

New EPA chair: New additions to the Environmental Protection Authority board have been announced, including new chair Julie Hardaker and deputy chair Steven Tipene.

Sugar labelling: A trans-Tasman consultation has opened on potential sugar labelling for packaged food and drinks.

EV database: The NZ Transport Agency will host EVRoam - a live database to let electric car drivers know where they can find reliable charging stations.

CRI board appointments: There have been a number of new board appointments to Crown Research Institutes AgResearch, ESR, GNS, NIWA and Plant & Food Research.

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