Red Meat Consumption and Mortality

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined data from two different studies including more than 120,000 people, each over a 20+ year period.  They found that daily consumption of red meat, both processed and unprocessed, was associated with increased risk of total, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality.  They also estimated that substituting just one serving per day for fish, poultry, nuts, low-fat dairy or whole grains was associated with a 7-19% lower mortality risk.

The researchers included beef, lamb or pork as a main dish or as a sandwich for the red meat category.  The study was fully adjusted for other variables such as age, diet and lifestyle that might change the results.  There were no statistically significant differences among specific processed or unprocessed red meat items.  However, bacon and hot dogs tended to be specifically associated with higher risk than the other red meat items.

The researchers did not elaborate but provided some suspected reasons for the higher mortality risk, suggesting some possibilities like; excess iron, saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and nitrates in processed meats and carcinogens formed by high cooking temperatures.

As we write in TurboCharged, eliminating red meat from your diet is not the answer.  Limiting or eliminating all processed meats, red or otherwise, is definitely a good idea.  Other studies have shown that moderate red meat consumption of less than 20 ounces per week has no adverse health effect and can supply key vitamins and other nutrients that are otherwise scarce.  As far as we are concerned, there should be plenty of variety in your diet and this includes your protein sources.  With all the possible choices, why limit yourself to red meat.

Total protein intake should also not exceed 15% to 20% of total daily calories required for maintenance.  Excess protein will result in metabolic stress. 

There is also some evidence that pork consumption alone is associated with higher disease and mortality risk.  When you examine pork consumption in various countries and the incidence of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and multiple sclerosis, there is a significant correlation observed.

The key to a healthy and balanced diet is the inclusion of the greatest variety of whole natural foods possible.  Eat the same very same kinds of foods that have allowed the human race to survive and thrive for hundreds-of-thousands of years.  The more variety you have in the natural foods you eat, the greater the possible nutrition and resulting health. 

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.


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