A new study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating red meat – any amount of red meat – will significantly increase the risk of premature death from cancer and heart disease.
In this particular study, researchers looked at the diets of 121,000 middle-aged men and women for 28 years. Each additional serving of red meat the study participants ate every day was associated with a 13% increased risk of dying. Consumption of processed red meat was associated with a 20% increased risk of dying.
So what’s wrong with red meat? Researchers say there are four factors associated with these products that can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer:
- Higher saturated fat content
- Nitrates used to preserve processed red meats
- High iron content, which can be problematic for men and post-menopausal women
- The carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PACs) created on the surface of meat when it’s cooked over high heat.
But the study also found that red meat eaters were also less physically active, more likely to smoke and drink, and weighed more, although those stats were factored into the analysis.
It’s important to note that epidemiological, or observational, studies, such as this one, do not and can not prove causation or cause-and-affect. They can simply point out a possible hypothesis that should be studied in controlled trials so more variables can be controlled.
The study’s authors would like to see Americans reduce red meat consumption to less than two to three servings per week. And they added that completely avoiding processed red meat is a good idea.