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.
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
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
"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.
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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.