Diet and Nutrition

Overconsumption of Red Meat Can Lead to Medical Complications

Overconsumption of Red Meat Can Lead to Medical Complications

Key Takeaways

  • People who ate more red meat were more likely to die of diseases, when compared to people who ate less red meat.

According to a new study, people who eat low amounts of red meat have a lower risk of death, when compared to people who have more of processed foods, such as hot dogs and sausage. In this study, the researchers from Harvard analyzed the diet of more than 120,000 people who are participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurse's Health Study. The results of the study are published in, Archives of Internal Medicine

Once in four years the participants answered a questionnaire about their eating and other habits like smoking, drinking, and exercise, and also about their body weight. The average age of the participating men were 50-years-old and women were 45-years-old. The researchers found that people who ate more red meat were more likely to die of diseases, when compared to people who ate less red meat.

The analysis show that daily serving of 3-ounce red meat increases the risk of death due to heart disease by 18% and that due to cancer by 10%. Processed meats are even more dangerous. Having two slices of processed meat daily increased the risk of death due to heart disease by 21% and cancer by 16%. Researcher An Pan, PhD, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, says that processed meat is more harmful than unprocessed, fresh meat.

The risk of death by these conditions can be reduced by replacing red meat with lean proteins like fish, chicken, nuts, low-fat dairy, whole grains, or beans. Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, says that substituting red meat with any other food materials will reduce the risk of death considerably. “The study has very clearly showed that red meat should be substituted with a variety of other foods including nuts," claims Nestle.

Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, also agrees to the fact that such lifestyle changes really make a difference. According to him, it would be better if one could change into a total plant-based diet. Small changes like replacing chicken for beef, or fish for chicken may also help to reduce the risk.

Some people strongly disagree with the results saying that such observational studies cannot prove the cause and effect. According to Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, executive director of Human Nutrition Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a responsible dietary advice should be derived from the complete body of evidenced including standard randomized control trials when they are available.