Red meat increases death, cancer and heart risk, says study

Meat Experts advise to choose leaner cuts of red meat

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A diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School.

The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems.

Substituting red meat with fish, chicken or nuts lowered the risks, the authors said.

The British Heart Foundation said red meat could still be eaten as part of a balanced diet.

The researchers analysed data from 37,698 men between 1986 and 2008 and 83,644 women between 1980 and 2008.

They said that during the study period, adding an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to someone's daily diet would increase the risk of death by 13%, of fatal cardiovascular disease by 18% and of cancer mortality by 10%. The figures for processed meat were higher, 20% for overall mortality, 21% for death from heart problems and 16% for cancer mortality.

The study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, said: "We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.

Dr Rosemary Leonard says the risks associated with eating a lot of red meat are "very clear"

"This association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat with a relatively greater risk for processed red meat."

The researchers suggested that saturated fat from red meat may be behind the increased heart risk and the sodium used in processed meats may "increase cardiovascular disease risk through its effect on blood pressure".

Victoria Taylor, a dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Red meat can still be eaten as part of a balanced diet, but go for the leaner cuts and use healthier cooking methods such as grilling.

She suggested adding more variation to your diet with "other protein sources such as fish, poultry, beans or lentils."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Scientific research gives individuals information.They have the right to follow the advice or not. Product labelling lets you know if there are potentially harmful chemicals in the item. Would it be better NOT to know, so you could carry on, perhaps, giving your children these chemicals? Would parents still have taken Thalidomide if its possible side-effects had been known? It's your choice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Strange that some people posting on here are up in arms at being given information that, maybe, they didn't know before.

    Nobody's stopping anyone eating red meat. If you want, eat as much as you like. On the other hand if you think the information is useful then use it to adjust your diet.

    What we don't want is a society where we are kept in the dark about things that could be harmful to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    My grandmother had a saying; "A little of what you fancy does you good".

    A very important part of that concept is "a little". If we buy and eat small portions, choosing healthier food to avoid health problems, then the occasional indulgence in red meat won't cause harm, (but remember the red wine too!).

    So there we have it - eat what you like but sensibly - but we already know that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Sad that the results of a scientific study can generate so much negative comments. Without studies into the relationship between lifestyle choices and diseases we would still believe that smoking is good for us. Of course we all die, but most people do not want a premature and painful death.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    This might seem crazy but why not instead of substituting red meat with healtheir alternatives you could just eat less of it? Madness I know! I don't even see the point of these studies, literally everything apparently causes cancer these days anyway


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