In news that won’t come as a shock to many of us, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that eating any amount or type of red meat significantly increases risk of premature death, cancer, and heart disease.
You don’t even have to eat a whole slab of babyback ribs regularly to be at risk, either. A serving as small as 3 ounces of unprocessed meat regularly, about the size of a deck of cards, was associated with a 13% higher chance of dying during the course of the 20-year study. Of the 37,698 men and 83,644 women involved in the study, mortality risk increased alongside their red meat consumption
To add insult to injury, if a study participant was given an extra daily serving of processed red meat such as a hot dog or couple slices of bacon, their risk of death went up to 20%. Previous to this study, researchers thought it was likely that processed meats had a significantly higher negative impact.
The Harvard researchers also discovered that replacing red meat with other foods reduced mortality rates for participants. A serving of nuts regularly, in place of pork or beef, was linked to a 19% decrease in mortality throughout the study. Poultry and whole grains was linked to a 14% decrease, legumes and low-fat dairy to a 10% decrease, and a 7% decrease for fish.
While scientists haven’t nailed exactly what it is in red meat that is so problematic for health, the high levels of iron and saturated fats, as well as the nitrates used to preserve them, are all pretty high on the list of suspects.
According to An Pan, postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, reducing servings of meat to two or three servings of unprocessed product a week would have a drastic impact on public health. He admitted that he eats a serving or two of red meat a week, but he doesn’t eat bacon or other processed meats.
Remember Meatless Monday? If you’re still hesitant to give up red meat, you could always give that a shot. If this study is anything to go by, not only would more plant-based diets cut healthcare costs from chronic diseases in the U.S., but it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The production of red meat has a very high carbon footprint ( see previous post Carbon Footprint Of 20 Animal Products: Lamb Highest, Then Beef…)
Are you a frequent red meat eater? If so, will a study like this impact your diet?