Animal products and our health – what does science say?

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Why animal products harm our health

Going vegan, or even taking steps in that direction, immediately makes people question your nutrition and declare concern for your health. Truth is, those concerns should be reversed – a wholesome vegan diet is far better for your health than one based on animal products. Here’s why.



All types of meat, including poultry, always contain saturated fats that are bad for the heart and blood vessels. They raise your blood cholesterol levels and those, in turn, increase the risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis – plaques that build up on artery walls and may lead to heart disease. Meat-eaters have a higher risk of heart disease than vegans and science shows that when people stop eating meat, their cholesterol levels and blood pressure drop.

Meat also contains haem iron – a type of iron found only in animal tissue and which the human body absorbs without being able to limit its intake. It follows that high meat consumption can lead to iron overload, triggering the formation of free radicals. These dangerous molecules can damage your DNA, blood vessel walls and increase the stickiness of cholesterol particles, raising the risk of heart disease. In a study from the Netherlands, a high haem-iron intake from meat was associated with a 65 per cent increase in heart disease risk. On top of that, it has also been linked to a higher risk of cancer.

There are many other compounds in meat that increase the risk of cancer, some of which form during processing and others during cooking at high temperatures. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classed processed meat such as sausages and bacon as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) and red meat too as a likely cancer cause. Research links meat to cancers of the bowel, stomach, lung, kidney, bladder, pancreas, thyroid, breast and prostate.

And that’s not all! In many studies, meat consumption has been associated with type 2 diabetes, increasing the risk by up to 74 per cent! Meat is also a rich source of purines, that produce uric acid when digested, and this acid accumulates in the joints. Over time, it can cause a condition called gout, which brings chronic joint pain and inflammation.



Egg consumption can greatly increase your risk of heart disease – by up to 75 per cent! It is down to a combination of factors, with some people being more susceptible than others but one thing is clear – eggs are usually bad news for heart health.

Daily egg consumption also increases the risk of cancer by up to 50 per cent. Several studies found a worrying link between egg intake and cancer of the breast, ovaries and prostate.

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, eating an egg a day may double the risk of the disease. According to researchers, eating eggs, and their cholesterol in particular, affects blood sugar metabolism and that’s why it increases the risk of diabetes.

Although Salmonella food poisoning from egg products has declined, there’s still a considerable risk. As recently as 2020, 42 UK egg-laying flocks tested positive for Salmonella.



It’s not natural for humans to drink milk after weaning and certainly not the milk of a different species – one that naturally contains many hormones designed to turn a tiny calf into a fully grown animal in just a year. It’s no coincidence that dairy consumption has been linked to hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, ovary and prostate cancer.

In young people in particular, milk and whey protein powders may contribute to acne, thanks to their hormones and hormone-stimulating effects. Milk proteins have also been suggested to play a role in type 1 diabetes development, while bacteria from milk have been linked to Crohn’s disease.

Soft cheese and unpasteurised milk products can contain Listeria – bacteria that cause food poisoning and for this reason, pregnant women are advised to avoid them. And lastly, high-fat dairy products supply considerable amounts of unhealthy saturated fats, which increase our cholesterol levels and may increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.



Fish is not a health food – in fact, far from it! All the world’s oceans are contaminated with chemical pollutants and heavy metals, and freshwater bodies are not much cleaner. This widespread pollution is why the Government recommends limiting how much fish people eat. Cooking fish at high temperatures, however, produces yet more toxic compounds that may increase the risk of cancer. Farmed fish are not the answer either as they contain even more pollutants than wild fish.

Fish oil, despite all the inflated claims, doesn’t prevent heart disease and it, too, is often contaminated with dangerous pollutants. Plant-based omega-3 fats are much healthier for us.

Fish and shellfish are also high in purines which can, over time, lead to gout. And that’s not all! Eating fish and shellfish puts you at risk of food poisoning. Pregnant women, babies and children are advised not to eat raw shellfish at all and to avoid certain other fish.

Commercial fishing and fish farming are utterly unsustainable as they seriously damage and pollute the environment and decimate wild fish populations.


Global threat

The largescale use of antibiotics in animal farming – both on land and in water (aquaculture), is a driving force behind the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can cause life-threatening diseases untreatable by any medicines. There’s no such risk from crops.

A vegan diet is much more ethical and healthier than other diets and offers another advantage – plants do not tend to carry the types of bacteria that cause food poisoning in humans. When plant foods are implicated in food poisoning it is generally because they have been contaminated with animal faeces, human sewerage or handled with dirty hands during preparation.

As many scientific studies agree, cutting animal products from our diet is the healthiest, most ethical and sustainable step we can take towards a better future.

For more information and references, visit to our Why Animal Products Harm pages


About the author
Veronika Prošek Charvátová
Veronika Prošek Charvátová MSc is a biologist and Viva! Health researcher. Veronika has spent years uncovering the links between nutrition and good health and is an expert on plant-based diets.

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