Meat consumption research – Part 6 Impact of meat and diet on human health

See Introduction/aim of research for the background to this work.

The Western “killer” diet

Modern food production systems ended millennia of food uncertainty for much of the world’s population. Unfortunately, this security has not reached the poorest billion of population who still struggle to feed themselves due to lack of income or resources. For the richer populations, effective food price deflation has stimulated over-consumption and considerable changes in diet. After years of increasing longevity, life expectancy is starting to retreat as more of the population succumbs to obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

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Meat consumption research – Part 1 Meat and diets in our evolutionary history

San Hunters

San Hunters - Photo by Charles Roffey licensed under Creative Commons license

See Introduction/aim of research for the background to this work

When considering human diets, food requirements and choices it is essential to look at the evolutionary history of our species. This requires looking back at least the couple of hundred thousand years of homo sapiens time on earth and even the previous hundreds of millions of years since our ancestral divergence from other primates. With the relatively recent changes to diet that agriculture and industrialisation have brought, it is especially valuable to consider what has been eaten for most of our evolutionary history.

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Meat consumption research – Introduction/Aim

I spent the last 4-5 months working on my final thesis for the University of Gastronomic Sciences.  I chose to look at meat consumption, the growth of which is exacerbating agricultural sustainability issues.  Following my time at the university, I was especially interested to look at some of the historic and cultural issues that make meat such a valued part of the diet.  I was also interested to look further into the health implications of diets.  The work was helped and inspired by my reading of Richard Manning’s book Against the Grain, Massimo Montanari’s teaching at the university and his book The Culture of Food and Michael Pollan’s books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence of Food.

The title of my work is…

Towards a more sustainable food system: Understanding the history, culture and impact of meat in human diets

and a brief synopsis…

High and rising global meat consumption threatens the sustainability of our food system with ever more resources devoted to livestock farming while much of the world remains hungry. I look at the history and culture of meat in human diets, the way we produce meat, it’s role in human health, ethical issues and solutions to restore sustainability.

In the end I think I was a little over-ambitious with the wide scope of the research.  It was more work than was required for the university but I was interested in doing it and felt that I was looking at the issues from a unique set of perspectives.  Unfortunately, I had to rush at the end to get it finished for the deadline and some parts could have done with some more work.  I will publish it here over the coming weeks, tidying up some bits that I was not satisfied with.

The work was a real challenge and a valuable exercise.  In places it was very difficult to keep objective and construct defendable arguments.  Please comment if you find anything you think is poorly argued or wrong.

See below for the aim of the research

Part 1: Meat and diets in our evolutionary history is here

Part 2: The introduction of agriculture is here

Part 3: Between agriculture and industrialisation is here

Part 4: Industrialisation and modernisation is here

Part 5: Impact on the environment is here

Part 6: Impact on human health is here

Part 7: Other impacts is here

Part 8: Ethical considerations is here

Part 9: Conclusions/Solutions is here

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The Role of the Endocannabinoid system in eating

Cakes, Porto, Portugal

This morning we also had a visit from Dr Vincenzo di Marzo of the Biomolecular Chemistry Institute, Pozzuoli, Italy. He has been working with a group of researchers studying the endocannabinoid system and how it is involved with food intake and eating disorders.  I wrote a brief summary of what I learned…

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More benefits of wine

Glass of wine

I recently came across the Science Daily web site and signed up for their free email of current science news. The emails come with an enormous number of headlines each day. A few wine-related stories that interested me…

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