Carbs Kill and Eating Animals Saves Lives

This is a continuation of two previous posts on saturated fat epidemiology and looking at the government data in different ways. For the background, see the previous posts:

  1. Saturated Fat Intake vs. Heart Disease & Stroke
  2. Drilling Down: Saturated Fat Epidemiology

As you’ll discover, the impetus behind the second post was Shangi-La Diet author Seth Roberts’ complaint about how some of the data was presented. He now appears satisfied, but one of his readers isn’t. You can read those comments here. Essentially, Vince ran the numbers but corrected for GDP in each country and the significance went away. Well, at least the correlation didn’t reverse the other way.

One thing Alex Thorn remarked to me about early on in constructing this data is that the saturated fat was given as a percentage of total energy intake, not an absolute amount. We initially thought that was a better way to present but in Vince’s analysis, and the discussion that ensued, it came to light that there was vast differences in total quantity of saturated fat consumption even where percentage intake was relatively close. And, so, I suggested that Alex run the data on absolute consumption rather than relative, and then have Vince adjust for wealth.

And, so, Alex reports. BTW, you can click on those last two graphs to open the full-size versions.

Please find attached the graphs using the DALYs statistics plotted against absolute animal fat intake (g/person/day) – the source of these particular statistics had not broken down fat consumption into saturated, mono-unsaturated & polyunsaturated but rather animal and vegetable.

I also used CVD mortality statistics (per 100,000 head of population) from the WHO website plotted against total animal food intakes (g/person/day), which is made up of meat, offal and animal fat (not including eggs or dairy), and also the ratio between total CHO, which includes cereals, starchy roots, fruits, vegetables and sugars & sweeteners, and total animal foods. These graphs are also attached.

These latter two are quite interesting. The first (total animal foods vs CVD mortality) has a marked trend for greater CVD mortality in populations who consume less total animal foods. While the second takes into account that poorer nations make up the shortfall in animal foods with cheap CHO foods especially cereals and starchy roots. In this one there is a trend line sloping upwards (the greater the ratio of CHO to animal foods the greater the CVD mortality rate). There is an impressive clumping of the countries with the lowest ratio of CHO:Animal Foods (France, Denmark, etc – known for low CVD rates). It should be pointed out that these countries also have higher rates of absolute CHO consumption, so the ratio is kept low by having very high animal food consumption.

CHD vs Animal Fat
CHD vs Animal Fat
Stroke vs Animal Fat
Stroke vs Animal Fat
Other CHD vs Animal Fat
Other CHD vs Animal Fat
CVD vs Animal Food
CVD vs Animal Food
CVD Death vs Carb Animal Food Ratio
CVD Death vs Carb Animal Food Ratio

So, the more animal fat, the less CHD, Stroke and Other CHD. The more animal food altogether, less CVD deaths, and…

The More Carbohydrate That Was Eaten in Place of Animal Food, the More CVD Death.

11/12/09 Update: Commenter Ricardo "O Primitivo" Carvalho has done some further number crunching and posted graphs, which he describes…

Here are a few graphs relating the “animal to vegetal energy ratio” with several epidemilogical variables. The x-axis data is from FAO-STAT Consumption: “Animal Products + (kcal/day), 2003″ and “Vegetal Products + (kcal/day), 2003″ and the y-axis data is from the BHF-British Heart Foundation and the WHO-World Health Organisation. ->

Go have a look.

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  1. Aaron Blaisdell on November 11, 2009 at 15:52

    This would be a great lesson for a statistics class on regression and interpretation! Alex, thanks for the excellent work!

  2. O Primitivo on November 12, 2009 at 07:41

    Hi Richard. Here are a few graphs relating the “animal to vegetal energy ratio” with several epidemilogical variables. The x-axis data is from FAO-STAT Consumption: “Animal Products + (kcal/day), 2003” and “Vegetal Products + (kcal/day), 2003” and the y-axis data is from the BHF-British Heart Foundation and the WHO-World Health Organisation. ->

  3. Don Matesz on November 11, 2009 at 18:00

    I wonder if this presentation is confounded by the focus on deaths from heart disease rather than incidence of the disease. Wealthier nations will eat more animal food AND have more technology for interrupting death from myocardial infarction. Of course I don’t believe that eating animal fat causes heart disease, I only question using epidemiological and food disappearance data focusing on deaths from heart disease as an argument in favor of meat-eating.

    • Alex Thorn on November 12, 2009 at 01:21

      Another good point and one that just occurred to me also! If I can dig up enough data for CVD incidence per country I will certainly try to plot a graph of dietary intake against that.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2009 at 11:33


      Right you are. I think the most important things from these various looks are:

      1. Consistency.
      2. The correlation never goes the other way.

      In the series I’m doing on Dr. Jackson’s claims, this difference between deaths and incidence will play a major role.

  4. Dave, RN on November 12, 2009 at 09:04

    That’s great! Especially in light of the fact that my sons college (University of Texas at Arlington) just started “meatless Mondays”! He was tweaked about it and so was I. There reasoning is that they are trying to save the planet from global warming. Never mind the fact that the countless millions of buffalo that used to roam the plains didn’t seem to warm the planet. Of course we all know that the global warming thing is just another “in” that radical vegetarians use to promote their cause. What’s equally sad is that pay good money for that food program, and a small minority has convinced university leadership to do this. Poor misguided saps. And what’s worse is that you can use all the logic and studies, such as the information that you presented here, that shows the health benefits of animal fat, but vegetarians don’t listen to logic.

    • MetaEd on November 13, 2009 at 09:56

      With regard to global warming, I am led to believe that the difference between buffalo and today’s beef cattle is that the cattle eat a whole lot of petroleum. Their primary diet is corn, and the primary diet of corn in turn is petroleum derived fertilizer. If UTA is trying to cut down carbon release, maybe what they ought to try is a “grass fed Monday”.

  5. O Primitivo on November 13, 2009 at 02:33

    Hi Tom Moertel. Here are two Excel databases for download:

    All data sources I know of are linked in my page (see link’s section “Dados estatísticos”):

    I’m totallly open source on what concerns data. It would be great if, someday, all health studies would include attached data sources. Like you say, to encourage further analysis.

    Regards, Ricardo.

    • Aaron Blaisdell on November 13, 2009 at 10:17

      The National Institutes of Health are trying to move in this direction, though met with a lot of resistance on the part of the PIs. My own view is mixed. On the one hand, I do believe the data collected from public taxpayer money should be public domain, on the other, I don’t want to be scooped on publications arising from my data until I’ve had sufficient time to recoop my return for my labor. Kind of like copyrights should protect the creator of an artistic work, but not indefinitely.

  6. Tom Moertel on November 12, 2009 at 21:13

    For all those folks out there posting graphs, please also post your data sets online to encourage further analysis. (Tip: use a Google Docs spreadsheet for free hosting and easy sharability).


  7. Carbs Kill and Eating Animals Saves Lives Victoria University VU China on November 14, 2009 at 08:55

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  8. William on December 31, 2009 at 11:46

    As a confirmed meat-lover and somebody curious about the approach you’re promoting, I was excited to see the title of this post. However, I don’t think the data matches the claims at all.

    The correlation here you’re seeing is wealth. As you can see from the 4th graph, the countries in the upper left are all poor. Poor people eat less meat, and also die sooner. That’s not because of the meat; it’s the poverty, which is demonstrably bad for your health.

    Both the title and the implications drawn from the graphs are bogus. That this post doesn’t have a big “I got this totally wrong” disclaimer at the top makes me suspicious that the rest of the material on this blog is similarly sloppy and unreliable. Unfortunate!

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