Joe Raedle / Getty Images
A new study published in The BMJ can not tell you exactly how much red meat is good for maintaining health or preventing disease.
Picture and perhaps even more important question: What does healthy eating behavior look like?
A diet rich in nuts, seeds, fish, vegetables and whole grains – and maybe up to an egg a day – contains better than a diet rich in red meats, especially processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs.
There is ample evidence that processed red meat represents an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
And this new study, involving approximately 80,000 men and women, found that limiting red and processed meats can help reduce the risk of premature death.
"We have followed the eating habits of our participants for several decades." Study author Frank Hu, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. This allowed Hu and his colleagues to compare people with their red and processed meat intake over time with those who had a relatively stable intake. On average, US adults consume about one serving a day.
Overall, those who increased their consumption of processed red meat by about 3.5 servings per week had a 13 percent higher risk of dying during the eight-year follow-up period of the study.
"We estimated that people who replaced red and processed meat with nuts, seeds, and fish [and other alternatives sources of protein, as well as vegetables and whole grains] reduced their risk of death by more than 10 percent during the follow-up period," explains Hu.
] I asked Tom Sherman, a professor at Georgetown University, who teaches medical students in nutrition science, to view the study. "At first I thought, 'oh no, another newspaper shows that eating red meat is bad & # 39 ;," Sherman wrote by email. "But in fact, this one is pretty interesting," because it deals with behavioral changes.
"Behavioral changes are pretty enlightening and diagnostic," says Sherman. He says that change can signal that a person is starting to pay attention to their diet – or actively ignoring it. And these changes "have a positive or negative impact on the risk of chronic diseases: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cancer".
This is an observational study that can not prove cause and effect between diet and death. But it can start an association. According to Sherman, a disadvantage of all dietary observational studies is that it is difficult to separate the independent effect of changes in meat consumption from other lifestyle factors such as body weight, exercise, alcohol consumption, etc. Evidence.
Hu notes that in this new study, as well as in previous studies, the risks associated with red meat consumption are higher and most pronounced in processed red meat.
Processed meat usually contains a lot of sodium and preservatives, "says Hu. In addition, high temperature cooking methods such as barbecuing can be carcinogenic, and recent research has found high consumption of red meat – especially processed meat – with less diversity and abundance of healthy bacteria in the world "This can lead to increased risk," says Hu.
Sherman adds, "I always have to share the data on the consumption of red and processed meat and mortality, CVD [cardiovascular disease] or protect against cancer risks with my students, because it sounds so incredibly scary. "
" Unfortunately, "he says," it seems to be accurate. "