- Many studies have concluded that too much red meat is bad for our health.
- New research from the US and China has found that increasing red meat intake, particularly when it’s processed, was associated with a heightened risk of death of 10-13%.
- But increasing the amount of other proteins like eggs, fish, and wholegrains may decrease the risk by 17%.
- “These findings suggest that a change in protein source or eating healthy plant-based foods such as vegetables or whole grains can improve longevity,” the study concluded.
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A new study has added to the growing mound of evidence that too much red meat is bad for our health.
Researchers based in the US and China looked at the red meat consumption and mortality of 54,000 women aged 30-55 and 27,000 men aged 40-75 in the 80s and 90s, with a follow-up in 2010. They found that increasing red meat intake, particularly when it’s processed, was associated with a heightened risk of death.
But increasing the amount of other proteins like eggs, fish, and wholegrains may decrease the risk.
During the research, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire every four years about how often they ate certain foods and how large the portion sizes were. Overall, 14,019 people died, and the leading causes were cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and neurodegenerative disease.
The results, when adjusted for age and other lifestyle factors, showed that increasing red meat intake by 3.5 serving per week over eight years was associated with a 10% higher risk of death in the following eight years.
The same amount of processed meat was associated with a 13% higher risk of death, while unprocessed meat was associated with a 9% higher risk. But replacing one serving of meat with fish meant reducing the risk of death by 17%.
“These findings suggest that a change in protein source or eating healthy plant based foods such as vegetables or whole grains can improve longevity,” the study concluded.
The researchers stressed that as this was an observational study, the exact cause of death cannot be determined. Also, as all the participants were white and healthcare professionals, the results may not be representative to the whole population.
But the findings are “a practical message to the general public of how dynamic changes in red consumption is associated with health,” the researchers wrote.
Despite the limitations, the study adds to the evidence that too much red and processed meat can be bad for our health. For example, several studies have shown how eating just a small amount of processed meat regularly can increase your risk of some deadly cancers.
Plus, in April, researchers at the University of Oxford and Cancer Research UK found that people who eat 76g of red or processed meat per day have a 20% higher risk of developing bowel cancer than those who averaged 21g a day. Also, the risk of bowel cancer also rose 20% with every extra 25g of processed meat – about one strip of bacon.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out red and processed meat entirely,” said the head of health information at Cancer Research UK, Julie Sharp. “But you may want to think about simple ways to reduce how much you have and how often.”