Perhaps public health messages would have a greater effect if they truly scared people, Mr. Briscoe said, noting that millions of people continue to smoke even though it will contribute to the deaths of half of them.
Likewise with foods and drinks that can undermine health. Most people are unwilling to forgo immediate pleasures for the sake of future gains. In response to a recent column on the mortality risks of eating red meat, a reader asked: “How many weeks of life might I lose by eating a lot of meat? If it’s only a few, that’s a small price to pay for years of enjoyment.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of question that can be answered on an individual basis. If genetics or lifestyle render people susceptible to heart disease or cancer, adding excessive red meat to the mix might cut them down decades sooner than if they limited meat consumption.