“This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” said senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
You may have heard by now. If you want to increase your chances of living a long, healthy, disease-free life it is time to bury the bacon, send away the sausage and ditch the dogs. In a study published yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers show that red meat consumption increases your risk of dying from cancer and heart disease and that processed meat is the worst. The study assessed the diets of more than 120,000 people for an average of 25 years through questionnaires. A total of 23,926 deaths were part of the study – 5,910
from cardiovascular disease and 9.464 from cancer.
Eating just one 3-4 ounce serving of red meat daily increased participants risk of mortality by 13 percent. A daily serving of processed meat – just one hot dog or two slices of bacon – increased the risk by 20 percent.
You don’t HAVE to go vegan, however, to improve the likelihood that you’ll live longer however (although plenty of studies say vegetarian and vegan diets significantly lower your risks for most major diseases.) Subbing in alternative proteins, including poultry, fish and nuts, associated with a lower risk of death. Eating chicken instead of red meat decreased your chances of dying by 14 percent, nuts instead reduced your
chances by 19 percent and fish reduced mortality risk by 7 percent.
While any study that involves a questionnaire and associations has its flaws – you can’t know if the meat eaters were mostly smokers or non-exercisers – the number of participants and the length of time of the study does suggest a strong association. This type of questionnaire study is regularly used and respected.
What to do? Skip processed meats altogether. If you ascribe to the “everything is better with bacon” philosophy – at least look for nitrate- and
nitrate-free versions of processed meats. One of the theories as to why processed meats are worse is that the iron in the meat actually turns these preservatives into a carcinogen. The fact that processed meats are often grilled at high heat in direct contact with open flames, which causes the formation of carcinogens, may also be what makes them so much worse for you. Keep red meat consumption to a minimum – Dr.
Frank Hu, the study’s author, suggests one serving every other day. A serving is 4 oz. of ground beef, steak, pork, bison or lamb. Lean varieties are, as always, best. If you like animal proteins – chicken, turkey, salmon, shellfish, eggs and dairy – are good subs for red meat. Tofu, beans, nuts, seeds and some grains are excellent plant-based protein options.