Red meat

Eating red, processed meat raises risk of early death

Yet another scare on red meat…. those juicy burgers and sizzling steaks may look innocent enough (not to mention temptingly tasty), but they could be driving meat eaters to an early death, according to a new Harvard study.

It’s no secret that red meat can be harmful to our health — while high in protein, it’s also packed with fats that can contribute to heart disease and diabetes and other compounds that can promote cancer.

Now researchers led by An Pan at the Harvard School of Public Health quantify how eating red meat can hasten death, and, perhaps more importantly, how substituting it with other forms of protein, such as fish and chicken, can counteract that deadly effect.

Reporting in the Archives of Internal Medicine, lead author Pan studied more than 121,000 doctors and nurses enrolled in two large studies that tracked the health professionals’ eating and lifestyle habits, as well as their health outcomes — including incidence of heart disease, stroke, cancer and death — for up to 22 years.

When he and his colleagues reviewed the data by how much red meat the participants ate, they found that an additional single serving of meat a day (about the size of a deck of cards) contributed to a 13% increased risk of dying, and an added serving of processed red meat a day (a hot dog or two slices of bacon) increased the risk of dying during the study period by 20%.

Much of that risk was due to heart problems; on average, a daily serving of red meat boosted the risk of heart disease death by around 19.5%, and the risk of dying from cancer by 13%. (Cooking red meat can release nitrosamines, which have been linked to an elevated risk of developing cancer, as has increased exposure to the iron found in red meats.)

Overall, according to the more than two decades of data that Pan and his team collected, about 9.3% of the deaths among the men and 7.6% of the deaths among the women in the study could have been avoided if the participants ate 42g of red meat a day, or less than half a serving.

But instead of merely documenting how harmful red meat can be for the body, Pan decided to see how healthier alternatives, such as fish, chicken, nuts and whole grains, stack up against steaks and burgers. And the numbers may be revealing enough to finally help some of us make the switch. Overall, substituting one serving a day of red meat with one of these other sources of protein lowered the risk of dying over two decades by up to 19%: chicken or whole grains each reduced the risk by 14% while nuts lowered the risk by 19%.

“We should move to a more plant-based diet,” senior author Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told HealthDay. “This can substantially reduce the risk of chronic disease and the risk of premature death.”…. Read the full article

Harvard red meat cancer study under fire

Meat industry experts and health campaigners have both questioned the results of a Harvard Medical School study which claimed to show that eating a diet high in red meat shortened life expectancy.

The research – based on 28 years of research involving more than 120,000 people throughout the US – claimed to show that eating red meat increased the risk of cancer and cardio vascular disease.

Adding an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to a person’s daily diet increased the risk of death by 13%, according to the research. An extra portion was the equivalent to two rashers of bacon or one hot dog.

The risk of fatal cardiovascular disease was increased by 18% and of cancer mortality by 10%. The risks were even higher for processed meat.

But Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Meat Advisory Panel said that the study was observational, not controlled, and so cannot be used to determine cause and effect….

Food Manufacture UK: Read more

The study Red Meat Consumption and Mortality was published online by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. To read the report summary click here.