Objective: To estimate the medical costs that are attributable to the health effects of meat consumption.
Methods: The prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and foodborne illness among omnivores and vegetarians are compared in studies that have controlled for other lifestyle factors, and the corresponding attributable medical costs are calculated in 1992 dollars.
Results: Direct health care costs attributable to meat consumption are estimated to be +2.8-8.5 billion for hypertension, +9.5 billion for heart disease, +0-16.5 billion for cancer, +14.0-17.1 billion for diabetes, +0.2-2.4 billion for gallbladder disease, +1.9 billion for obesity-related musculoskeletal disorders, and +0.2-5.5 billion for foodborne illness. The total direct medical costs attributable to meat consumption for 1992 are estimated at +28.6-61.4 billion.
Conclusion: Health care costs attributable to meat consumption are quantifiable and substantial.