Non-communicable diseases rose due to increase in red meat trade: Study

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Increase meat trade worldwide over the past three decades have resulted in a sharp rise in incidences of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like colon cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, finds a recent analysis published in the open-access journal BMJ Global Health.

The impact was particularly intense in Northern and Eastern Europe and the island nations of the Caribbean and Oceania, researchers noted.

Countries need to integrate their future health policies with agricultural and trade policies by cooperating with both responsible exporting and importing countries, they said.

The researchers looked into the impact of the red and processed meat trade on diet linked illness and identify the most vulnerable countries.

Analysing data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation, from 1993 to 2018 for 154 countries, the researchers focussed on 14 red meat and six processed red-meat items, preserved by smoking, salting, curing, or chemicals.

Undertaking comparative risk analysis, the researchers examined the number of deaths and Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) caused due diets high in red and processed meat via trade from 1993 to 2018, they noted that the increase in red and processed meat consumption with trade accounted for 10,898 deaths in 2016–18 period.

They found that between 1993 and 2018 the meat trade increased by 148.4% from 10 metric tons to 25 metric tons. While the number of exporting countries decreased from 33 in 1993-95 to 26 in 2016-18, the number of importing countries increased from 121 to 128.

Developed European countries' share in total red meat and processed meat export in 1993-95 and 2016-18 was 55% and 50.6% respectively.

Being an observational study, it cannot establish the cause, and moreover many countries import and process red meat items for export, which may have caused a bias in their findings, the researchers admitted.

“Results show that global increases in red and processed meat trade contributed to the abrupt increase of diet-related NCDs, and the attributable burden of diet-related NCDs had large geographical variations among countries,” they noted.

“Our findings suggest that both exporters and importers must urgently undertake cross-sectoral actions to reduce the meat trade’s health impacts. To prevent unintended health consequences due to red and processed meat trade, future interventions need to integrate health policies with agricultural and trade policies by cooperating with both responsible exporting and importing countries,” the researchers concluded.




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