If I were a researcher Iqrar Khan would be the perfect choice of doing research. He is friend of my father, who passed away in 1992 at the age of 62. He is 90 years old and eats everything. He is neither hypertensive nor he has diabetes or any heart disease. I met him on 10th Muharram after nearly two decades. He was distributing kheer in cups. He offered me one but I being diabetic politely declined. Khan Sahib was shocked and told me to eat a lot of fruit and vegetable to keep myself fit. Why not the meat? He said it was fine to eat meat but too much would not be good.

I often talk with my colleagues about how our diet patterns have changed in the last three decades. I remember in the 80s we had mutton cooked at home definitely on Fridays and perhaps one other day. Chicken was rarely cooked. Most of the time we had vegetables and pulses. It was not that we did not afford to eat meat everyday but then that was the eating trend among all the population. Barbeque has always been popular but it was only for special occasions. And we used to play almost every physical sport in our youth, a trend unfortunately fading away.

Life became more comfortable as Pakistan made progress in the 1990s. Life could never have been better and the Musharraf era too was a comfort zone. There was rapid increase of private transport among the people. Many people went abroad to support their families. Prosperity came in abundance. And thus change came in diet patterns of the people. In 1997 while living in Tokyo I became addicted to KFC food. I craved for it when I returned home after one month. I used to have it at times in all three meals. It was also for the fact that I had not got used to Japanese food and eating Pakistani food in Indian restaurants was expensive.

Chicken craze has taken over Pakistan’s urban sprawls among children and teenagers. Some years ago when bird flu virus spread among the poultry people stopped eating chicken. The youth was disillusioned and did not know what to eat. Often it is said that the feed that is given to chicken in poultry farms is not good and contains toxins. It is given so that the chick may grow quickly. The chicken meat we eat has been pumped full of harmones to make it grow faster and antibiotics to prevent disease. The same kind of feed is given to poultry chicken in many countries. I saw the same feed in Thailand. The only difference is the practice. There they stop giving the hormonal feed at least two weeks before it is ready to be sent to market. In those two weeks it is given normal feed so that the toxins may leave the body through stool and urine. Here the practice is that in order to get the best results the poultry farm owners continue to give the same feed till the end. There is need to check this practice.

Equal craze is for red meat especially mutton. One can see that even there is rule of one dish at the marriage functions it is usually mutton and the way people eat it is sometimes unbearable to look. A lot of food is wasted.

Meat craze can be gauged from the fact that very few fast food outlets offer vegetable sandwiches or veggie burgers. Unlike other parts of the world even cheese burgers are not rage among the young people.

The scribe is not suggesting to people to not eat meat but also to consider other protein options to avoid the so many diseases that are caused by its excessive use. Red meat is a source of heme iron (as compared with non-heme iron, which is found in plants). Heme iron is a risk for Type 2 diabetes. Meat contains high amount of fat and cholesterol, two risk factors for heart diseases. Uric acid problem is also caused by excessive consumption of meat. The meat has sodium and nitrates. Sodium can raise blood pressure and thus increases the risk of stroke and heart diseases and nitrates may damage blood vessels. According to a recent study by University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine men who eat the most red meat are likely to develop prostate cancer and more likely to get advanced cancer.

According to a recent study from UCLA meat contains a lot of iron which when eaten in excess can raise levels of iron in the brain and may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Besides these other health problems include breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, obesity, arthritis, gallbladder problems and digestive disorders.

If you are eating steaks, chicken wings or mutton tikka while reading this article you may consider dropping the idea of eating them. In the end I think we should meet up some time to think about the issue and creating awareness in this regard so that we may bring down the meat up position prevailing in our society.