Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meat, weight, and money

A week and a half ago, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Helath news center posted a summary of an article by my colleague Youfa Wang.  Dr. Wang's article was about meat consumption contributing to various measures of obesity. 

The article noted that despite the fact that several diets promote high consumption of protein, this may not lead to weight loss as expected. I'm not a physician or a nutritionist. But I do know a thing or two about human nature. We may never know whether the diets applied as intended could actually decrease weight. It may just be that the diets applied less than perfectly do not work. That could be the subject of future randomized trials comparing people who use the diets (as imperfectly as the general public might) with those who do not.

It is interesting to think about the economics here. First, meats are generally more expensive in the grocery story. Not always, but generally. So, people might be able to save money by eating a diet with less meat.

On top of that, it takes the economy as a whole more money to produce and has the environmental impact associated with both the production of the feed for the animals and the production of the animals. So, the economy as a whole might have resources for things other than food production and environmental clean up if we switched away from some meats.

Am I saying we should all be vegetarians? No. Simply that, as with everything in life, we must consider the tradeoffs related to our decisions very carefully. Dr. Wang's article is just another piece of evidence to add to what we consider when making decisions about our diet.  People (including me) will go on eating meat--and not a small amount of it.  Preferences are a strong determinant of behavior despite all the information that may become available and all the constraints we may face.

1 comment:

  1. Your preference for meat out weighs all of the health, environmental, and economic reasons for eating a vegetarian diet? Isn't eating a local, vegetarian diet the first place to start making change on these issues?