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 309.

    Who'd have guessed ... Though I wonder if it's the red meat or the way it's farmed.

    Basically by the end of the article we're being told to eat a balanced varied diet ... not heard that one before!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    My granddad lived on a diet of processed red meat, beer and good humour yet he was never overweight and lived to the grand old age of 95 with all his faculties intact. Some of us will go sooner, some later but it'll happen to us all one day, one way or another. Just go easy on the quarterpounders, stop smoking and don't overdo it on the booze; and you should be ok.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Will not eating red meat make me immortal?

    I smoke, I drink, I eat whatever I'm hungry for. I would rather shave a few years off my life (they come off the end anyway) by living it than follow clean healthy living eating nuts berries and salads in an effort to stick a couple of more years on my life (they add them to the end).

    Death, is a perfectly natural thing. As is the love of steak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    "If you eat processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages or burgers several times a week, add variation to your diet by substituting these for other protein sources such as fish, poultry, beans or lentils."

    Is this not the precise opposite of what Ms Taylor intended to say? She means "substituting other protein sources for these, such as ..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Most religious texts state that it is the consumption of blood within the meat that causes the health problems. Much of this was to do with diseases such as botulism, but many religions ban blood. It would be interesting to see how meats drained of blood fare against those which have not. It's simply a case of finding a way of slaughter that does not have the barbarity of Halal or Kosher meats.

  • 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 303.

    Could the author please explain how you increase the risk of death? Last time I checked the actuarial tables, it was 100%, with or without red meat. Are some people dying TWICE? That really would be news...

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    I have read the article and comments and after much thought and deliberation have concluded that I am off for a Big Mac.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    More media inpired hype. Whatever happened to the basic concept of everything in moderation., Has common sense ceased to exist in our society? When the average age of death was less than 40 you just ate what you could catch. Now we prolong life almost at any cost and are turning our nation into a bunch of nuerotic food fadists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    "... an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to someone's daily diet would increase the risk of death by 13%..." That's an interesting statistic, since the risk of death to all humans is 100%!

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    These statistics irritate me. "increase the risk of death by 13%"

    So thats 13% of what? Presumably 113% of what it is without the red meat... Of course there is no mention of that, so lets say its 5%, 5% increased by 13% is 5.6%. Not much of a headline anymore is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    So another food source is risky...I am not convinced.

    maybe it's the thousands of manmade chamicals that pollute our whole environment that are causing the problems.

    maybe we get more cancers because we can detect them better

    maybe we get more cancers because we live longer...the body can just take so much in 60 years

    we still live longer....!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    I'm 60, healthy, overweight, intelligent, happy, I drink wine 4 or 5 times a week, eat red meat about 8 times a week, love cheese, eat butter rather than spread and don't get enough exercise, but haven't seen a doctor in years, so I probably already have lots of diseases without knowing it.

    However I don't want to live forever. So lay off, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Is it just me or does this article give me the Daily Mail vibes? Everything kills you. Why, thank you. I never knew!

    Shape up, BBC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    I find it amusing how you all seem to know more about this subject than the scientists who did the study! what, is this forum populated entirely with retired scientists? LOLZ!

    just get over it folks... meat is really bad for you

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    A lot of people here saying that the scientists are constantly changing their minds about what's bad or good and justifying their jobs, etc. Yeah, I'd definitely listen to some random genius on a website before some highly qualified body of professionals. Would you rather the govt(s). did no research at all? No, of course not. Wake up, grow up, listen and make informed opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    These studies are so unscientific it is impossible to draw a clear conclusion. Yes, in fairness, they have a large data set over a long time frame, but it doesn't mention if they are smokers, do less than the recommended amount of exercise etc. The real conclusion can only be: eating too much of something isn't good for you shock horror! Do exercise and eat sensibly and you will be fine

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Oh great - I'll now be able to live longer - claim no pension and be abused in some care home I end up - fantastic - it's really worth making myself miserable now so I can live a few years extra. Besides all I can afford is cheap meat at the moment - everybody else seems to want my money (Before I anyone kicks off I do eat lots of veg - but I like me meat as well!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    But how much longer would your dear old gran have lived if she'd never smoked 40 fags a day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Without displaying the actual risk (not the percentage of increase), this article is meaningless.


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