I’ve read more studies condemning Red Meat as a health risk than I can remember. But they all agree, it is. Now, a team of researchers based in the U.S. and China has confirmed how much Red Meat it takes to raise your risk of early death. And the numbers are discouraging…
The study, published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal, shows in detail how much Red Meat a person can consume and still avoid the risk of early death. Meat Lovers will be disappointed.
What they did
Researchers used data-mining techniques to examine how changes in Red Meat consumption over an 8-year period effected the likelihood of death over the following 8 years. Their data pool consisted of records for more than 53,000 registered Nurses aged 30 to 55, and almost 30,000 male physicians aged 40 to 75 who were followed for 16 years or more, between the years 1986 and 2010. None of the study participants had either cancer or heart disease at the start of the study.
Every four years the participants completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) where they were asked how often, on average, they ate each food of a standard portion size in the past year, ranging from ‘never or less than once per month’ to ‘6 or more times a day’. They were then divided into five categories based on their changes in Red Meat intake.
What they found
During the study period, the total number of deaths from any cause (known as ’cause mortality’) reached 14,019 (8,426 women and 5,593 men). The leading causes were cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and neurodegenerative disease.
Regardless of where they started with their red meat consumption, it was found that subjects who increased their Red Meat intake by just 3.5 servings a week over an 8-year period increased their risk of early death over the following 8 years by 10 percent. Increasing one’s intake of processed Red Meats (Bacon, Sausages, Ham and Hot Dogs) produced an increase of 13 percent while increasing intake of non-processed Red Meats increased the risk by 9 percent.
Conversely, swapping out one serving of Red Meat a day in favour of one serving of Fish decreased the risk of early death over the following 8 years by 17 percent.
“A change in protein source or eating healthy plant based foods such as vegetables or whole grains can improve longevity,” the study concludes. They also say the findings provide, “a practical message to the general public of how dynamic changes in Red Meat [consumption] is associated with health,” they write.
So, it means that we, as individuals and food providers for our families, have the power to make the right choices to optimize our own longevity. And we know exactly how much to reduce our Red Meat consumption to make a significant change. The question is, how many of us will do that? The study defined ‘Red Meat’ as Beef, Pork and Lamb. For me, it means that my own efforts to swap out Red Meat in favour of Chicken and other protein sources should have an impact on my family’s health – if I disregard the results of another recent study that shows there’s no difference in the effects of Red Meat and White Meat on heart health.
My problem is, who am I supposed to believe?
I’ll admit, the study I’m reporting on today did not suggest that swapping out Red Meat in favour of Poultry would have a beneficial effect; just Fish. So, I’m still uncertain as to how to proceed. The good news is, I’ve been recently swapping out a certain amount of Chicken from my family’s diet in favour of Fish. I’m hoping that puts me and mine in the clear on the Red Meat / mortality risk connection.
~ Maggie J.