Eating Red Meat Linked to Increased Death Risk of Cardiovascular, Cancer
Estimate 9.3% men, 7.6 % women dying during follow-up would be alive if they consumed fewer than 0.5 servings per day of
March 12, 2012
– Eat more red meat and you increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. But, if you eat fish, poultry or some other
foods instead of the red meat your death risk goes down.
Meat is a major source of protein and fat in many diets and previous studies suggest that eating meat is associated with
increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, the authors write in explaining the background for their
research, which is published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals..
The researchers, led by An Pan, Ph.D. Harvard School of Public Health, analyzed data from two prospective group studies
with repeated measures of diet and up to 28 years of follow-up. Data from 37,698 men and 83,644 women were used. Researchers documented 23,926
deaths, including 5,910 from CVD and 9,464 from cancer.
"We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, CVD and cancer
mortality, and this association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat, with a relatively greater risk for processed red meat,"
the authors comment.
"Substitution of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products and whole grains for red meat was associated with a
significantly lower risk of mortality."
The elevated risk of total mortality in the pooled analysis for a one-serving-per-day increase was 12 percent for total
red meat, 13 percent for unprocessed red meat and 20 percent for processed red meat, the results indicate.
In their substitution analyses, the authors estimated that replacing one serving of total red meat with one serving of
fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products or whole grains daily was associated with a lower risk of total mortality:
● 7 percent for fish,
● 14 percent for poultry,
● 19 percent for nuts,
● 10 percent for legumes,
● 10 percent for low-fat dairy products and
● 14 percent for whole grains.
"We estimated that 9.3 percent in men and 7.6 percent in women of total deaths during follow-up could be prevented if all
the participants consumed fewer than 0.5 servings per day of total red meat in these cohorts," they comment.
What is Good for Patients, Good for Planet
In an invited commentary, Dean Ornish, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, writes: "In addition to
their health benefits, the food choices we make each day affect other important areas as well. What is personally sustainable is globally
sustainable. What is good for you is good for our planet."
"More than 75 percent of the $2.6 trillion in annual U.S. health care costs are from chronic disease. Eating less red
meat is likely to reduce morbidity from these illnesses, thereby reducing health care costs," he comments.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and a career development award from the National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
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