Higher Risk Of Cancer, Heart Disease Linked To Red Meat

Increased cancer and heart disease risks are being linked to the consumption of red meat. Long known to be a food to be enjoyed sparingly, an emerging, well-respected study, says that a daily serving of red meat can be dangerous.

The study, conducted by what MSNBC described as “the highly respected researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health” provided what is considered the finest and most comprehensive data on the matter. The Harvard team followed nearly 84,000 women and 38,000 men in the Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professional’s Follow-Up Study for 28 years. The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The research revealed that people eating a daily serving of red meat were 13% likelier to die during the study period; another 14% were likelier to develop heart disease or cancer, said MSNBC. The numbers increased to 20% more deaths and 18% more heart problems and cancer in people consuming a daily serving of processed meats, for example hot dogs, salami, and bacon. MSNBC pointed out that in the U.S., meat probably accounts for some 1.5 million excess deaths every 10 years, citing research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Industry group, the American Meat Institute, said Americans consume about 65 pounds of pork and a similar amount of beef per person annually, said MSNBC, with the numbers remaining fairly consistent over the past 20 years. Consumption of chicken increased to about 80 pounds yearly and turkey at 15 pounds annually.

The Harvard research, while extremely credible is described as “observational.” Controlled trials are considered to provide the best level of proof with half the group consuming meat and half not; however, that would be difficult to achieve in a multi-decade dietary study, noted MSNBC. Regardless, noted MSNBC, the Harvard team has a respected track record with observational studies involving nurses, doctors, and other health professionals; blood tests provide confirmation of reported diets and health records are utilized. The results of the Harvard study also coincide with a 10-year study published in 2009 involving more than 500,000 people from the National Cancer Institute, which adds strength to the recent study, noted MSNBC.

“Red meat and especially processed red meat contains a lot of compounds and chemicals that have been linked to chronic disease risk,” said Frank Hu, one of the study leaders, wrote Reuters. The saturated fat and cholesterol found in red meat is associated with arterial plaque buildup, which raises risks for heart disease; cooking red meat produces increased carcinogens, said Reuters.

Another recent study found that increased meat consumption was linked to increased risks for kidney cancer.

Substituting one daily red meat serving for one of fish, poultry, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, or whole grains led to a 7-19% decreased risk of death, according to the team, said Reuters. “The results are not really surprising given that previous studies have found consumption of red meat is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers,” Hu said. “What’s surprising is the magnitude…. Even a small amount of red meat is associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality,” Hu added, wrote Reuters.

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