Animal sourced foods and health outcomes
Professor Tim Key, Dr Anika Knüppel, Dr Keren Papier, Dr Aurora Perez-Cornago and Dr Tammy Tong
Animal sourced foods (ASFs) are generally nutrient-dense foods and can be important sources of protein and micronutrients such as iron and calcium. But they are also major sources of saturated fatty acids which may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and some types of meat contain components which may increase the risk for certain cancers. Conversely, diets that are very low in or exclude animal products (e.g. vegetarian and vegan diets) are typically low in saturated fatty acids and rich in several nutrients which may improve health, but may increase the risk of some dietary deficiencies with potential adverse effects on health. We aim to provide quantitative estimates of key health risks from consumption of animal products and also to assess the possible impact on health of foods which can substitute for these products.
We will draw on data from major prospective cohort studies; EPIC (n=500K, 20yr); the Million Women Study (n=800K, 15yr); and UK Biobank (n=500K, 10yr). We will go beyond current studies in disaggregating ASF consumption into components that may have different effects on health and the environment; separating meat into red meat, processed meat, pork & poultry, and dairy into milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. Additionally, we will also examine differences in health outcomes in people of distinct diet groups, e.g. regular or low meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, to inform the long-term health impact of following specific dietary patterns that include or exclude ASFs. Our outcomes will include diseases and conditions where health risks may be increased or decreased by ASFs: ischaemic heart disease, ischaemic stroke, haemorrhagic stroke, diabetes, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, anaemia, and bone fractures.