The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

To meat or not to meat, that is the question

Being a vegetarian requires much more effort then just giving up meat.

It was a regular Monday morning for SMU senior Sarah Heller when she checked her Twitter newsfeed. As she scrolled through the feed, she noticed a tweet from a major news source that immediately caught her attention. Vegetarians Less Healthy, Lower Quality Of Life Than Meat-Eaters was the only thing she could think about for the rest of the day.

“After clicking on the tweet’s link, I read through the article and have been questioning my health ever since,” said the finance major.

Heller, 22, has been a vegetarian for almost her entire life. Growing up on tofu and vegetables, Heller never had the desire to eat meat. But after a new study was released earlier in the month, many vegetarians like Heller have been reevaluating their eating habits and questioning the results of their non-meat diet.

In many past studies, scientists have thought that vegetarians lead a healthy and satisfying life. But a recent study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria concluded that vegetarians are less healthy and have a lower quality of life compared to meat eaters. News organizations around the country covered the release of the study and many vegetarians are disagreeing with the results.

“I was outraged when this study went viral,” said Heller. “I have been a healthy vegetarian for many years and hate when people question my choice.”

Scientists who conducted the study examined a total of 1,320 people and divided them evenly into four different groups. All groups were comparable to gender, age, and socio-economic status. The only aspect that changed among the four groups was the diet. The groups consisted of vegetarians, meat-eaters who ate a lot of fruit and vegetables, people who only ate small amounts of meat, and people who ate large amounts of meat.

In total, the scientists looked at 18 different illnesses including asthma, diabetes, migraines, and osteoporosis. Compared to the big meat-eaters, vegetarians were hit harder in 14 of the 18 illnesses. The results from the study seem to contradict parts of the common cliché that meat-free diets are better for one’s health.

Savannah Louie, a sophomore from SMU became a vegetarian for six months during her senior year of high school in order to experiment with her body. She was always curious about the vegetarian lifestyle and started her experiment filled with optimism.

“Becoming a vegetarian was fun and allowed me to try new foods,” said Louie. “I would encourage those curious about the lifestyle to ignore this new study and try going meat-less.”

When the study was released, most news sources focused on the negative implications of being a vegetarian. Although the study showed that the vegetarian diet carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders, many doctors are staying true to their beliefs that eating a balanced diet is the best way to stay healthy.

Dr. Penelope Kent is an orthopedic doctor in Southern California who works for Kaiser Permanente. Throughout her life, Kent has been an on-again off-again vegetarian. Although she reviewed the negative implications of not eating meat, Kent has decided to ignore the new study and continue to live her life the way she sees fit.

“Whether you title yourself as a vegetarian, or as a person who loves eating meat, the healthiest person out of the two is going to be the one who eats a more balanced diet,” said Kent.

Kent explained that the hardest issue for vegetarians to face is getting enough protein to help formulate a balanced diet.

“If vegetarians learn to control their food intake and eat enough protein, they will succeed at a nutritional diet,” said Kent.

Taking a closer look at the new study has helped confirm that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol, and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index which helps control their weight.

Lisa Joyner, the Assistant Director of Health Education for SMU, thinks that many news sources are focusing on the negative effects of being a vegetarian because of the health of our nation. When considering national health data, Joyner noted that the United States is one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of U.S. adults are obese compared to 10 to 30 percent of European adults.

“Overall the health of all people, regardless if you’re a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, should be a concern for most Americans,” said Joyner. “Watching what we take into our bodies and our holistic health is important to make sure we are living a healthy lifestyle.”

After reading many articles on the newly released Austrian study, SMU sophomore Elizabeth Boddicker has made it her mission to prove the results wrong and continue to take a stand for what she believes in. Boddicker has dedicated the past few years of her collegiate life to become a vegetarian and will continue to go meat-less. Despite the results from the study, Boddicker has never felt healthier.

“For me, being a vegetarian isn’t about not eating meat, it is about eating less processed foods and more natural ones,” said Boddicker. “I pride myself on what goes into my body. No study is going to tell me how I should feel about my choice of becoming a vegetarian.”

By Alexandria Bauer: Alexandria Bauer is a junior journalism major at SMU and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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