March 20, 2012
Increased Death Risk From Red Meat

While quite a few studies have found an increased risk of assorted diseases and death from eating red meat some of those studies lumped together unprocessed and processed meat. So I've long wondered whether the signal against unprocessed meat is strong. This study finds the risk exists even for non-processed red meat.

CHICAGO Eating more red meat appears to be associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, but substituting other foods including fish and poultry for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk, according to a study published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Meat is a major source of protein and fat in many diets and previous studies suggest that eating meat is associated with increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, the authors write in their study background.

An Pan, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from two prospective cohort studies with repeated measures of diet and up to 28 years of follow-up. Data from 37,698 men and 83,644 women were used. Researchers documented 23,926 deaths, including 5,910 from CVD and 9,464 from cancer.

CVD is cardiovascular disease.

"We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, CVD and cancer mortality, and this association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat, with a relatively greater risk for processed red meat," the authors comment. "Substitution of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products and whole grains for red meat was associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality."

The risk increase from unprocessed red meat is substantial.

The elevated risk of total mortality in the pooled analysis for a one-serving-per-day increase was 12 percent for total red meat, 13 percent for unprocessed red meat and 20 percent for processed red meat, the results indicate.

Here's what I did not expect: both nuts and poultry lower risks more than fish. Huh? What's with that?

In their substitution analyses, the authors estimated that replacing one serving of total red meat with one serving of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products or whole grains daily was associated with a lower risk of total mortality: 7 percent for fish, 14 percent for poultry, 19 percent for nuts, 10 percent for legumes, 10 percent for low-fat dairy products and 14 percent for whole grains.

Since I get tired of chicken I'd like to see more restaurants offer turkey all year around. The variety around non-red meat isn't big enough. We need greater variety of relatively safer forms of meat.

Some people could have avoided the grim reaper.

The researchers estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented at the end of the follow-up if all the participants had consumed less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat.

Would chicken with fish oil provide more benefits than chicken alone? Why the bigger benefit from poultry? How much of the benefits from nuts, legumes, fish, and chicken are additive?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 March 20 10:26 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies


Comments
R.K. said at March 21, 2012 5:05 AM:

Lame analysis based upon mediocre data. Here is the best of the take-downs:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/will-eating-red-meat-kill-you

dlr said at March 21, 2012 6:13 AM:

This study is tainted, alas, by confounding factors, like all prospective studies. People who are more health conscious hear that red meat is bad for them and fish and etc are good for them. They proactively eat more fish, poultry and nuts, and less hot dogs and charcoal grilled steaks (mmmm), and DO LOTS OF OTHER THINGS THAT are also associated with lower health risks, like watch their weight, get regular exercise, see their doctor, etc. They also undoubtedly are in a higher socioeconomic bracket, have a less stressful life, a more interesting and rewarding job, don't binge drink, or do drugs, and live in the suburbs far away from sources of pollution. They have less heart disease, but WHICH ONE OF THEIR BEHAVIORS is the cause? No one knows, no one can know. So, all the study really shows is that people who care about taking care of themselves believe red meat is bad for your health. No surprise there.

wsr said at March 21, 2012 7:00 AM:

How about whether the cows were grass fed or corn fed? Grass fed beef contains greater amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids than corn fed beef.

Tuck said at March 21, 2012 9:02 AM:

The study's bogus. The results are minute, and they're lacking in any sort of experimental verification. Go back to your steak.

Here's an analysis by a statistician:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2012/03/2012-red-meat-mortality-study-arch.html

Jason said at March 21, 2012 9:06 AM:

No need to give links given the comments before mine, but I'll chime in that this study's methodology is ridiculously unscientific. If other branches of science were treated with the lack of rigor as nutrition often is, we'd be living in the dark ages.

PacRim Jim said at March 21, 2012 1:21 PM:

It is not commonly known that the consumption of vegetables correlates positively with mortality.
The longer one eats them, the more likely one is to die.

bbartlog said at March 21, 2012 1:38 PM:

Absent some compelling theory as to mechanism, I'm inclined to side with Tuck, dlr, Jason and so on. This looks a lot like the studies that demonstrated the benefits of flu shots, which were ultimately found to show only that more health-conscious people have lower mortality overall.
The recommendation for low-fat dairy products is especially suspect. Drink lots of skim milk, you tend to develop insulin resistance. Not so if you drink whole milk.

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