Evidence that red meat kills
A research finding from Harvard scientists suggests too much red meat may be killing us. A new study links high consumption of cows and other red meat products to increased risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. The scientists aren’t saying don’t eat any red meat, but they suggest people limit their portions, saying evidence that too much red and processed meat kills is “clear”.
For the study, 37,698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were followed for up to 22 years and 83,644 women in the Nurses' Health Study followed for up to 28 years. Researchers used questionnaires to assess the participants’ diet every four years, finding those who regularly ate red meat; especially processed meat, had a 13% higher chance of overall mortality.
One hot dog a day boosts chance of dying 20 percent
The chances of death went up to 20% among people who consumed one hot dog a day or two slices of bacon.
In the study, 5,910 people died from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 died from cancer. All of the participants were disease free at baseline.
"Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies," said lead author An Pan, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH in a press release.
Cancer, in particular colorectal, from eating processed meats has been linked to ingredients like nitrites, sodium and saturated fat, in addition to heme iron that is added to red meat and other foods for fortification.
For the study, researchers took into account age, body mass index, physical activity, family history of heart disease and major cancers, finding the corresponding increases in risk of dying linked to red and processed meat consumption were 18% and 21% for heart disease, and 10% and 16% for cancer.
People in the study who ate less red meat and protein from other sources including legumes, fish, poultry and nuts had a lower mortality rate. The greatest association was a 19% lower chance of dying for those who added a serving of protein from nuts to the diet and eliminating just one serving a day of red meat.
Replacing red meat with poultry or fish lowered the risk of dying by 14% and 7%, respectively. Low-fat dairy in the diet or legumes were associated with 10% reduction in deaths.
The authors concluded if men and women in the study had consumed ½ serving less of red meat daily, 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.5% in women could have been prevented.
Study author Frank B. Hu said in a media release, the evidence is ‘clear’ that eating red meat is linked to cancer and heart disease and increases the chances of dying prematurely. Conversely, choosing healthier protein sources can lower risk of disease and death.
"Red Meat Consumption and Mortality,"
An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu,
Archives of Internal Medicine
Online March 12, 2012