Latest post of the previous page:
erasmusinfinity wrote:Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.1
Similar statistics are available for the high meat-consuming Maasai in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world. Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years for men. African researchers report that, historically, Maasai rarely lived beyond age 60. Adult mortality figures on the Kenyan Maasai show that they have a 50% chance of dying before the age of 59.2
That article provides a wonderful example of how to twist statistics to say what you want!
For starters both the Inuit and Maasai have small populations with low outbreeding, immediately increasing the risk of a host of diseases (including cancer). More importantly perhaps, they both still hunt actively for their dietry needs, which is a high-risk mode of life. Another factor is that both live in marginal environments that have avoided being heavily populated because they are so inhospitable. Don't expect high life expectancy when you live in a place with limited water or intensely cold conditions.
It is interesting that the article gives life expectancy for the Maasai (incorrectly stating that "have the worst life expectancy in the modern world" at an average age of 43.5 years for the population, when Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan all have life expectancy below 42.2 years), but it just provides a relative value for the Inuit, which is 64.2 years by the way. Here is an article that looks at Inuit life expectancy without a bias against meat: http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/080123/d080123d.htm
It is interesting to note that the main suggested rationale is socio-economic.
Analysis of the 2001 Census data revealed lower levels of education and income and poorer housing conditions for the Inuit-inhabited areas compared with Canada as a whole. Any or all of these, in addition to lifestyle risk factors and environmental conditions, could be at least partly responsible for the lower life expectancy in those areas.
I can play with statistics too. I downloaded the available data for the world consumption of meat per capita per country (figures for 2002, source Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), FAOSTAT on-line statistical service (FAO, Rome, 2004). Available online at: http://apps.fao.org.) and the average life expectancy at birth by country (figures for 2000-2005, source Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, 2007. World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision. Dataset on CD-ROM. New York: United Nations. Available on-line at http://www.un.org/esa/population/ordering.htm), which I then plotted on a simple scatterplot through which I plotted a regression line. The correlation coefficient that was generated was y = 0.1978x + 57.962, where y=average life expectancy at birth and x=per capita meat consumption in kg. You notice that this is a positive correlation?
These data allow me to honestly say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of meat eaten and increased life expectancy. These data include 173 countries and I have not added any interpretation of my own - they are considerably more interesting that the two data points and anecdotal evidence used in the article you cited, but when I add my interpretation I would dismiss the correlation because the analysis has not been controlled against other factors such as war, civil unrest and poverty.
I'm all in favour of using data to support an argument, but please make sure the data are a) accurate and b) unbiased, otherwise it's just propaganda and I for one will not let that pass.