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 349.

    The beer, pizza and lack of exercise is going to kill me long before red meat does!

  • 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 347.

    Everybody knows that a balanced diet is the way forward especially one based on Med countries with fruit , veg , olive oil, lean meat in moderation, all washed down with a couple of glasses of vino a day.

    Pity the Havard did not have better things to spend it's money on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    This is just bad science. I mean, really, red meat makes you die early. Nothing to do with the fact that processed meat means junk food then? And people who eat a lot of junk food have absolutely no pre-existing risk of heart disease or dying early, none at all. 1+1 equals whatever number causes the scariest headline. WE'RE ALL DOOMED, I TELL YOU, DOOOOOOOOOOOMED! Cobblers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    What does 'increase the risk of death by 13%' even mean?! I think you'll find that everyone, beef-eater or not, runs a 100% risk of death over their lives.

    In any case, a percentage is meaningless without knowing the number it's a percentage /of/. The quality of 'science' reporting in the media really is appalling; no wonder children have trouble with it after years of seeing it done wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Apparently, everyone is going to be killed by everything.

    If this is the case, I'll be damned if I can't have a bacon sandwich before the alleged inevitability of cancer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    These type of 'catch your eye' lines are pointless. You cannot isolate individual components of life and extrapolate data like this, its pseudoscience.

    Did you know being alive increases your risk of heart disease and cancer.

    Crossing the road increases your risk of being knocked down...

    Need I go on, pointless.

  • Comment number 342.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    this kind of studies has to be done in Argentina and see if it is only the meat or there is a combination in the diet that prevents the adverse effect of eating meat. Same thing with high protein (meat) intake and renal disease, I do not think that the argentineans are above the average despite eating larger amount of meat. Most epidemiological studies are none sense but seem to make sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    holier than thou... have you ever really LOOKED at raw meat? it's all full of disgusting tendons and veins and parasites and is chock full of blood.

    HOW GROSS meat is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Heard this story many times before... it's old hat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    OK. if my chance of dying is increased by 20% when I eat red meat, what's the chance is if I don't?

    If I start off with a 1 in 10,000 chance (100 people per million are affected), 20% the increase is 1 in 8000 (now 125 per M) because I eat red meat, it's still pretty unlikely (25 more deaths per million).

    But if it's 1 in 1000, there are 2,500 extra deaths - more worrying!

    Misleading article!

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Maybe we are told the same thing 'over and over and over again'.
    But the point is that it's information, not instructions.
    We still make our own choices, but with better data.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    I'd be interested to see the statistics for the increase in deaths and stress related illnesses caused by dramatic but irrelevant news articles like this. I'm off for a burger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    297. Diana_France

    You don't sound healthy to me. Being overweight is not being healthy.

    However it is your choice, so I am not going to criticise.

    327. SwirlyLovesDora
    Mmmmmmeat is delicious.

    323. DaveInStAlbans
    I think it is more likely that farmed meat is not as healthy as wild. After all, we are biologically evolved to eat wild meat.

    Also there are far more grain allergies than meat ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    And so when they interview Britain's oldest person and they say they've avoided everything from foods, alcohol, driving or even leaving the home - is that meant to inspire us? Is that the aim? Live forever by experiencing nothing, just in case is shortens ones life expectancy.
    By the way, sure, lean meat would be healthier, but no red meat tastes better than a lovely marbled piece

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    At the end of the day, living increases the risk of dying.

    Everything has its own built-in risk, and taking the odd risk is what makes life worth living.

    Now pass the salt - I want to put some on my steak and chips, then after eating more than I ought to, I'm going to wash it down with a nice glass of beer - to say nothing about a puff on my pipe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    The dubious "increase the risk of death by 13%", whatever that means, makes me doubt how useful this report is.

    Surely in order to establish that red meat was responsible, the 120,000 people would have to have exactly the same diet between 1980 and 2008 except that some ate more red meat.

    Did some drink, smoke, take drugs?

    In the absence of clearer stats I'll continue to blame sprouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    If you take a NSAID for pain and it works then you are blocking the very substance that red meat, dairy, egg yolks and shellfish contain that causes that pain in the first place. Common sense says cut them out, eat leaner meat, or beans and pulses. Less pain, less heart attacks, less stomach destroying tablets. Its basic biochemistry, its called Arachidonic acid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    My grandparents & many other older relatives of mine had a diet that included just about everything that's now supposed to be risky & bad for you yet they lived good healthy lives into the high 80's & 90's & were rarely ill from anything, their diets did not include any junk food though & everything was in moderation. They also worked well past their retirement ages too!


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