Meat Eaters Face Slightly Higher Health Risks, New Study Finds
The latest study of meat consumption finds eating red meat, processed meat or poultry twice a week raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by 3% to 7% and ups the odds of premature death by all causes 3%.
“It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats,” said senior study author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”
While the percentages were small, the study was not. It involved 29,682 participants who reported what they ate. (Self-reporting is known to not be the most reliable method of developing data.) “Our study shows the link to cardiovascular disease and mortality was robust,” study leader Victor Zhong, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, said in a statement.
However, the study did not break out red and processed meat separate from poultry. Other research has shown red meat and processed meat associated with health risks more so than poultry. A study last year in the journal Nutrients found people who ate 2 ounces of red meat daily (roughly half a hamburger) were 18% more likely to die prematurely from any cause, and 26% more apt to die from cardiovascular disease, compared to vegetarians.
The new study, published Feb. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine, contrasts notably with a controversial report in September in which researchers suggested people shouldn’t worry about red meat consumption. That report was roundly criticized and dismissed as flawed by several scientists and health organizations.
The advice on meat consumption has actually changed little in recent years. “Fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat and are under-consumed in the U.S.,” said study co-author Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at Feinberg and a member of the 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee.
The new study found no increased risk from eating fish.