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Red Meat Raises a Red Flag

Red FlagSteak is still one of America’s favorite meals, but regular consumption of red meat products comes at a high cost for health. In a recent large study, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found red meat to be causally associated with mortality, including from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, and his team observed 37,698 men from the HSPH Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for up to 22 years and 83,644 women from the National Institutes of Health Nurses’ Health Study for up to 28 years, all of whom were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at the beginning of the study.

The researchers assessed diets via questionnaires every four years and documented a combined 23,926 deaths in the two studies, of which 5,910 were from CVD and 9,464 from cancer. Their evaluation revealed that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of earlier mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) with a 20 percent increased risk.

Red meat and related products contain heme (meat-based) iron, saturated fat, sodium and nitrites, as well as carcinogens formed during cooking. The researchers recommend turning to healthier protein sources instead, like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes and whole grains.

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