A typical student’s week almost undoubtedly consists of some or all of the following —burgers, beer, sleepless nights, coffee, caffeine shots, (you fill in the blank) shots and hangovers. While many students might think that caffeine and alcohol are the only items on the list posing potential health risks, recently more and more studies are showing the negative effects of eating red meat — which puts a burger in the mix to harm college students.

Leah Potkin

It’s no surprise that the college student often leads a less than healthy lifestyle, but the downfalls associated typically come in the form of foamy alcoholic beverages or other mind-altering substitutes, and not in the form of succulent steaks. But a recent study released by the Harvard University School of Public Health shows that red meat consumption is associated with a higher risk of early death, and should be eaten in moderation — or not at all. Considering consumption of red meat also leads to imbalances in the body’s pH levels, students should consider their carnivorous habits in order to balance their lives and bodies, and should at least understand the risks associated with eating red meat before sinking their teeth into their next steak dinner or fast food burger.

Looking more into the consequences of eating red meat, the study found that regular consumption of red meat is associated with certain cancers, type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, with increased risks associated with consumption of processed meats. To combat these risks, the study suggests replacing fatty red meats with healthier protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts or legumes. Most notably, the study found that an estimated “9.3 percent of deaths in men and 7.6 percent in women could have been prevented at the end of the follow-up if all the participants had consumed less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat” — that’s a one-dollar Bar Louie burger-less Tuesday.

Despite college students’ busy schedules limiting their food choices, it’s vital that they realize how what they put into their bodies now will help or hurt them in the future. Though it might be easy for students to order red meat at a variety of cheap and fast food campus restaurants, making minor dietary adjustments such as ordering a veggie slice instead of a sausage slice at NYPD, or subbing chicken for beef in a BTB burrito, would be beneficial for health in the long run. The same goes for making healthier choices in the dining halls, where, if students know where to look, there are actually many alternatives to the potentially harmful (though delicious) bacon and burgers. Not to mention, the lower fat alternatives to red meat typically come with the added bonus of lower costs — always a plus for the tightly budgeted college student.

While it is, of course, essential that students take into account the physical repercussions associated with regularly eating red meat, there are also negative environmental impacts. On a campus as eco-aware as Michigan’s, it seems almost oxymoronic that many students promote sustainability, but don’t even give a second thought to their weekly visit to Blimpie Burger. So, if red meat isn’t already looking a bit less appetizing, students should remember the negative environmental impacts, such as increased waste production and pollution, that go hand-in-hand with the processing of red meat.

Ultimately, it’s a student’s own decision whether he or she decides to eat red meat, but it’s vital any decisions are educated ones, as not everyone thinks about how their dietary choices in college could affect them later in life. And even looking beyond the beef, the idea of acknowledging potential health consequences is something that should be considered in correlation with sleep habits, drinking habits, and the like, as it is the compilation of choices such as these that, while unbeknownst to them now, could greatly and adversely impact student’s lives in the future. So, while I don’t expect everyone to change their favorite McDonald’s order or run to the farmer’s market, I do hope that students will think twice before ordering the beer and the burger.

Leah Potkin can be reached at lpotkin@umich.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @LeahPotkin.

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