Time to re-examine our diets

Scientific research shows that diets high in animal products actually kill many more people than cigarettes ever will. As a dietitian, I know that the west's three major killers-heart disease, cancer, and stroke-are linked to meat-heavy diets.

The evidence shows that almost 25 to 30 per cent of all cancerrelated deaths are caused by smoking, but as many as 30 to 35 per cent are linked to diet.

In the most comprehensive report on diet and cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund concluded that processed meat is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer and should be avoided completely. Red meat also contributes to colon cancer risk.

It's not just meat causing disease-other animal products are culprits, too. Dairy products-like fatty cheese and milk-are linked to prostate cancer risk. And the cholesterol and saturated fat in egg yolks have similar cardiovascular risks as smoking, according to a 2012 study in Atherosclerosis. Researchers found egg consumption-like smoking-accelerates plaque buildup on arteries.

Consumers deserve to know that meat, eggs, and dairy products have the same health risks as cigarette smoking, including increased risks of cancer, strokes, and heart disease. Quitting smoking is an important way to prevent disease, but switching to a vegetarian diet is just as crucial.

Joseph Gonzales, RD

Staff Dietitian

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine