The Weird Connection Between Eating Less Meat, Toxic Gas, And Better Health

Doctors have been telling us for a long time that reducing the amount of meat in our diets is good for our health. Consuming too much processed meat has even been shown to increase the risk of certain types of cancer (via World Health Organization). But you've probably never heard of one of the real reasons that eating too much meat can lead to serious health problems.

Meat products contain special amino acids that produce the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide (H2S). That stinky rotten egg odor may seem unpleasant, but our bodies need a little bit of H2S to function properly (via Medical Xpress). Normally, we get enough H2S from the foods that we eat. But Americans have the unhealthy habit of consuming much more than the recommended amount of foods that contain these important sulfur amino acids — the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. And which foods contain these sulfur amino acids? Meat and other foods that contain animal proteins tend to have the most.

Is more hydrogen sulfide better for you?

When scientists tested the effects of feeding animal models a restricted diet, the results were surprising. Mice, worms, fruit flies, and yeast all reacted to diets containing fewer sulfur amino acids by producing more H2S (via Cell). This led to a variety of beneficial changes that are linked to increased cardiovascular and liver health, and ultimately longer life expectancy.

A study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University suggests that eating fewer sulfur amino acids may lead to increased cardiovascular and metabolic health (via The Lancet). The researchers go on to recommend that people include more plant-derived proteins in their diets and fewer meat-derived proteins in order to lower their sulfur amino acid intake. But before switching to a vegan diet, check to see which plant-based foods actually contain low sulfur amino acids and which ones have deceptively high amounts. By following a balanced diet that limits meat intake, you may see an improvement in key health indicators.