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 409.

    I might die young but at least I will have a colon full of red meat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Rule 1: Don't believe anything in an advert
    Rule 2: Don't believe media, research it yourself.
    Rule 3: Don't eat anything that's been processed. Nothing with additives. So nothing low fat, sugar free or reduced, nothing with ingredients that have been made. Even be careful when they say natural, lead is natural. lol. Don't eat big meals.

  • 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 406.

    Just the news our already hard pressed farmers need or will Call Me Daves private sector take up the slack if we all stop eating red meat and the farmers go out of business. Whatever next??

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    This report imparts information.

    Information is power.

    It is up to you what you do with it.

    Use it wisely and gain power or ignore it and remain ignorant.

    It gives you the ability to take power and control of, at least part of, your life.

    Understand it, interpret it, use it, but don't ignore it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    This article and Victoria Taylor both misuse the word "substitute" - which is what it is all about! If you "substitute bacon for fish", you stop eating fish and start eating bacon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Eventually, and I GURANTEE this, you will have a 100% chance of dying. It's not about quantity of life, but quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    "They said adding an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to someone's daily diet would increase the risk of death by..."

    Adding an extra portion of ANY kind of food will increase your risk of death. If they do not tell us the risk increase due to adding a similar number of calories from fish, chicken, or nuts, the study is essentially meaningless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.


  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    As is always the case with the reporting of such studies, there's no mention of the other lifestyle factors which may influence the findings. People who eat extra portions of red meat may, for example, make unhealthier lifestyle choices in other areas (cooking method, exercise, alcohol etc), while those choosing lean meats, pulses, fish etc may arguably live healthier lives overall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Red meat is NOT bad for you if cooked properly; you have sensible-sized portions and you take regular exercise. In other words it carries the same risks as other foods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    good comments.... leave us alone. however, look at the obesity problem in the US and the west. most people eat too much of everything! stay away from junk food and exercise. the real problem is what all these obese and ill people will cost us to take care of them.

  • Comment number 397.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Look we are all going to die, if you want to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner just do it and be happy about the choice. If you want to eat nuts all day, run a marathon and go berserk on a spinning machine just do it and by happy about the choice. Just don't moan when it all goes wrong for you and say no one told you that extremes kill you quick and make you unhappy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Tell us something we don't know! Come on BBC .... this is old news!

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Shall I tell my dog? No more meat! No mention here that PROCESSED food is really the No1 killer. Virtually 90% of all food you buy in a supermarket. No warning label on coke either...
    Death by chocolate or meat? the choice is yours!

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    American cows are fed more steriods than the average athlete its no wonder american meat is bad for you. I thought steriods for cattle was banned in the EU .

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Now cigarettes are a done deal, alcohol in progress and upcoming bans on red meat this should ensure i lead a normal, 'happy' healthy life until at least... say 140... more time to comment on useless HYS message boards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    THis was and American study and as usual it is sensationalised by the media. Over the years spuds and bread have been bad for us as was butter and so it goes on. If you eat lots of food which is high in saturated fat it is very likely it will over time cause you harm. Next we'll be told fruit and veg are bad for us and we already know the air we breath is bad for us so where to now people??

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    As with most reports like this, there is no explanation of the statistics. What does an increase by 13% mean? Is it an increase from say 10% to 23%, or from 10% to 11.3%?

    This refers having an extra portion of red meat per day; so if you already have 5 portions a day, does it still add another 10%?

    I would take more notice of these reports if they were more understandable.


Page 17 of 37


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