Meatless Mondays – Truth and Fiction

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

I recently came across a national campaign started by Johns Hopkins called Meatless Mondays.

Meatless Mondays is a campaign to get people to go meat-free one day per week, preferably Mondays obviously. Every Monday places would offer a meat-less entrée to go along with the other options.

Now this doesn’t seem so bad, as many people are vegetarian or simply choose to eat less meat. I generally do not have a problem with that, as what you choose to eat is totally up to you.

However, I do have a problem with the flyer that is offered to customers about the benefits of Meatless Mondays, which in my opinion is full of vegan/vegetarian propaganda, not facts.

This flyer claims there are many health benefits to going meatless: limit cancer risk, reduce heart disease, fight diabetes, curb obesity, live longer and improve your diet. Wow, these sound fantastic, but are they true?

To support their cancer risk claim they state that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk (which is completely true) and that both red and processed meat are associated with colon cancer. This is incredibly misleading. In reality these “associations” are poor, and in most cases when studies claim that red meat was associated with colon cancer, it is because the study did not separate out processed from unprocessed meat. So things like hot dogs, sausage, and other processed junk are being lumped in with a steak. This is a large confounder. Not to mention these studies definitely do not separate out conventionally-raised beef (raised on horrible diets, unsanitary conditions, loaded up with hormones and antibiotics, etc) from pasture-raised grass-fed beef. There is another tremendous difference. Find me a controlled dietary study where even conventional red meat causes colon cancer, let alone pasture-raised. Good luck with that.

To reduce heart disease, they recommend replacing full fat dairy and meat with vegetable oil. AHHH! Well since the association between red meat and heart disease was only ever there because researchers again did not bother to separate processed from unprocessed this is more junk advice. When researchers finally did separate the two, what did they find? No connection between unprocessed red meat and heart disease. What a surprise. And don’t even get me started on full fat dairy and heart disease, as that is even worse advice. A significant amount of research has found a decrease in heart disease risk from consuming full fat dairy!

Please explain to me how red meat consumption increases diabetes risk?

To justify claiming that eating less meat can curb obesity, they state that people on low-meat or vegetarian diets have lower body weights. This is because in general vegetarians tend to be people whose goal is to lose weight and be thin. Whether or not I eat meat has little to no bearing on my body fatness, my total intake vs my expenditure is the determinant of that.

My favorite one is that Meatless Mondays will improve your diet. They claim that consuming beans and peas will provide higher intakes of protein, zinc and iron. What?!? Seriously, where was the fact checking on that one? Really, beans and peas provide more protein, zinc and iron than meat?

This propaganda flyer goes on and on, and the worst part is there are not any references to back up their many ridiculous claims. Apparently you just have to take their word for it, even though there has never been a single documented culture thriving on a vegetarian diet. Ever.

Again, if you choose to be vegetarian or have Meatless Mondays, that is just fine. It is not the philosophy I have an issue with, as eating more produce is never a bad thing. However, don’t try to sell me on poor research that you don’t even cite and misleading propaganda to push your philosophy down my throat. At least provide some facts, that is all I ask.

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Posted on June 24th, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Craig Says:

    Good stuff. I dont know why they call it “meatless monday” instead of “less meat monday.” Also the fact they decide upon themselves to force it on others, especially in a hospital :(

  2. Matt Skeffington Says:

    Great post! You would think a menu from a hospital especially would be based on current research and not opinion!

  3. Danny McLarty Says:

    Man is this crap getting old!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Rozin Says:

    Good post, BSP.

    The unfortunate thing with most studies benefitting vegetarianism/veganism and demonizing meat is that they are always correlational. The biggest one that is most cited is the famous China Study. Ultimately, that’s all there will ever be. It’s unrealistic to create a study to find out whether meat is truly bad or not. I mean, how could we even find out such a thing? Would we omit everything but meat? Then the rebuttal to the study would be that there was a lack of micronutrients. What if include other foods? Then someone can say that the other foods caused said issues.

    Food agendas that completely omit a food group is just a bad idea. I respect vegetarianism/veganism if they’re for animal humanity but not for health purposes.

  5. 7/25 – Back in Business with an Upgrade! | Attainable Growth, LLC Says:

    [...] Johns Hopkins school of Public Health, known as “Meatless Mondays”. You can find the blog post here. As you can presume, the goal of the initiative is to bring about awareness to individuals regarding [...]

  6. Joe Says:

    I loved seeing all your references to back up your claims. Those were very insightful real links you provided to actual studies that exist.

    Look, your thought process with processed vs. unprocessed meat, eh, was okay. I’m sure an Esselstyn, Campbell or McDougal could refute that, but as I have not researched that area, I can’t argue at the moment.

    However then you said that vegetarians are generally people who want to lose weight and that was throwing off the statistic for why vegetarians have less body weight. Really? And it doesn’t have to do with vegetables providing the stomach with a sense of fullness compared to the same amount of calories of a meat meal?

    I’m not a vegan, and I’m not even a vegetarian. However I believe in the benefits of more fruits and vegetables in a diet. I understand that your point was to ask for more data instead of bashing fruits and veggies. But that’s exactly how it comes across.

    So don’t try to sell me on poor research that you don’t even cite and misleading propaganda to push your philosophy down my throat. At least provide some facts, that is all I ask. As you have more space than a flyer to display your research findings, it shouldn’t be so hard.

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