Increased intake of red meat – especially processed red meat – is associated with an increased risk of death over a period of 8 years, according to today published online results in BMJ healthier alternatives such as fish, whole grains or vegetables reduce the risk of death.
"This long-term study provides further evidence that reducing the intake of red meat when eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables may reduce the risk of premature death in order to improve both human health and environmental performance It is important to choose a Mediterranean or other form of diet that focuses on healthy plant foods, "said Dr. Frank Hu in a press release. Hu is Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology and Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Red meat, especially processed meat, contains saturated fat, lots of sodium, preservatives and potential carcinogens that can contribute to health problems. The consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Processed red meats such as hot dogs and bacon have been associated with an even greater number of health issues and increased risk of death.
To date, researchers have not explored the link between changes in red meat consumption and death, or how far the selection of alternative foods can affect this risk.
Yan Zheng from the Department of Cardiology of the State Key Laboratory for Genetic Engineering of the School of Life Sciences and the Zhongshan Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, China, has earned his PhD. and colleagues analyzed data from two prospective US cohort studies: the Nurses' Health Study (53,553 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (27,91
The researchers analyzed data collected between 1986 and 2010. Using validated questionnaires on the frequency of food at baseline and every 4 years, the participants themselves stated how often they ate standard portion of each food in the last year. Researchers classified participants into five categories based on changes in red meat consumption (increased, decreased or relatively neutral).
During the study, 14,019 participants died, mainly from cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases.  The results showed that an increase in total consumption of red meat over a period of 8 years was associated with a significantly higher mortality in the following 8 years for women and men compared to an unchanged consumption of red meat ( P for trend <.05).
After adjusting for age, race, smoking, alcohol consumption and several other factors, including red meat consumption, the researchers found that red meat consumption increased by as much as 3.5 servings per year over a period of 8 years Week increased associated with a 10% higher risk of death compared to an unchanged consumption of red meat (hazard ratio [HR] 1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04 – 1.17).
They distinguished between processed and unprocessed red meat and noted a similar trend whereby the risk associated with processed meat was higher than that for unprocessed meat. In particular, consuming up to 3.5 servings per week of processed red meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of death (HR 1.13, 95% CI 1.04 – 1.23), while the same increase in consumption associated with unprocessed red meat was 9% increased risk of death (HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.02 – 1.17).
The results were similar regardless of age, physical activity, nutritional quality, smoking and alcohol consumption. Similar results were also obtained with 4- and 12-year changes in consumption.
Reducing total red meat consumption by 1 to 3.5 servings per week did not involve the risk of death. However, the risk of death was significantly lower than consumption of red meat decreased in favor of healthier options.
For example, the risk of death decreased by 17% when one serving of red meat per day was replaced by one serving of fish per day (HR 0.83, 95% CI 0.76 – 0.91). Other healthy alternatives that reduced the risk of death were nuts (HR 0.81, 95% CI 0.79 – 0.84), whole grains (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.83 – 0.94) and poultry without skin (HR 0.90, 95)% CI, 0.86-0.95), vegetables without legumes (HR, 0.90, 95% CI, 0.87-0.93), dairy products (HR, 0 , 92, 95% CI, 0.86-0.99), eggs (HR, 0.92, 95% CI, 0.89-0.96) and legumes (HR, 0.94, 95% CI, 0 , 90 – 0.99).
The authors note various limitations. The study has an observation design and can not prove that eating red meat causes an increased risk of dying, only that they are related. Most of the participants were white health professionals with a relatively high socioeconomic status. The results may therefore not be transferable to more diverse groups.
The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood Diseases, the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
One or more authors include support and / or fees from at least one of the following providers: Boston Nutrition Obesity Research, California Walnut Commission, Metagenics, Standard Process, Photo Navigation in Diet Quality,  Shanghai Colleges and / or the American Diabetes Association.
BMJ . Published online June 12, 2019. Full Text
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