It seems a new health study comes out every day. One day we are advised to eat lots of red meat, and a month later, told to avoid eating red meat entirely. (In the 1980s, people proudly ate simple, processed, carbs!). But as the data slowly rolls in, there seems to be some consensus — at least for the time being. Many doctors, and researchers agree you can’t go wrong by eating plant-based foods, and avoiding processed foods entirely.
It’s hard to know what we will hear in the next several decades. But medical professionals suggest our guilty pleasures, like cheese and dessert, will soon be considered as dangerous as tobacco products. We called cardiologist and plant-based nutrition advocate, Dr. Joel Kahn, for his take on what products and foods we will be avoiding completely by 2030. Here are his predictions:
Sadly, the World Health Organization recently found a clear link between processed meat — like bacon, hotdogs, and sausage — and colorectal cancer. Researchers found that about 34,000 cancer deaths per year were linked to diets high in processed meats, and determined that every 1.7 oz of processed meats eaten daily increases the risk of cancer by about 18%. “There will be a national museum to the memory of bacon,” Dr. Kahn says. “People will go, they will leave flowers, but there will be no bacon left in north America, as the burden of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s will be so great.”
Bad news for anyone who dutifully carries a reusable water bottle, reheats food in a takeout container, or loves ziplock baggies: plastics may not be the future after all. The risks of the common plastic bisphenol A (BPA) are well documented and the FDA has recommended people avoid exposure to the products. But now researchers are worried about other plastics as well, like Bisphenol S (BPS). And one study recently showed exposure to BPS could increase the risk of breast cancer. “We know the danger of plastics, [it] is not a theory. It was a proven,” Kahn says. “The issue is there isn’t a safe substitute. BPA-free plastic is not necessarily the solution. I think there will eventually be environmentally friendly materials that are also biodegradable.”
Cheese and dairy
Scientists continue to debate the link between dairy products and health risks. But studies have shown, a connection between dairy consumption and breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dr. Khan is convinced of the link, and believes the dairy industry is starting to respond. “Already in 2017, any product that can be made from dairy from a cow, from a goat, or any other source can be made from non-animal sources with the same or better nutritional value and less cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes risk and tremendously less toll on the environment and obviously on animals,” Kahn says.
In addition to the link between red meat and increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, red meat also takes a significant toll on the environment. The production of meat requires a significant amount of water, feed, fertilizer, and pesticides. And it produces greenhouse gases and other toxic materials as a byproduct. “Pasture-fed or confined animal farming won’t exist in 2030,” Kahn predicts. “The environment cannot support 10 billion people eating that much meat. It is already polluting the water, and leading to deforestation.”
The impact of added sugar in the diet has now been well documented. It can produce weight gain, and lead to diabetes and cancer. But beyond the obvious culprits like cookies, cakes, and soda, sugar is often added to 74% of products including unassuming products like yogurt and condiments. With many different names for sugar, it is also hard to know whether or not it has been added, and if so, how much sugar a food contains. “Sugar is the real McCoy,” Kahn says. “The problem is we have increased our sugar intake many-fold because of 61 different types of sugar. And the public can’t tell without a scientific degree that sugar is in barbecue sauce, and ketchup, and balsamic vinegar.”