Higher Red Meat Consumption Linked to Risk of Death

Substituting daily red meat serving with fish, poultry, or low-fat dairy lowers mortality risk

TUESDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- Eating more red meat appears to be associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer specifically, according to research published online March 12 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An Pan, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues prospectively observed 37,698 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 to 2008) and 83,644 women from the Nurses' Health Study (1980 to 2008) who were free of CVD and cancer at baseline. Validated food frequency questionnaires were used to assess diet and were updated every four years.

The researchers found that, during the 2.96 million person-years of follow-up, there were 23,926 deaths (including 5,910 CVD and 9,464 cancer deaths). The pooled hazard ratio (HR) of total mortality for a one-serving per-day increase was 1.13 for unprocessed red meat and 1.20 for processed red meat, after multivariable adjustment for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors. The HRs for CVD mortality were 1.18 for unprocessed and 1.21 for processed meats, and 1.10 and 1.16, respectively, for cancer mortality. The researchers estimated that substitutions of one serving per day of red meat with one serving per day of other foods (including fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains) were associated with a 7 to 19 percent decreased mortality risk. If individuals consumed fewer than 0.5 servings of red meat per day (approximately 42 grams/day), an estimated 9.3 percent of deaths in men and 7.6 percent of deaths in women in these cohorts could be prevented.

"Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality," the authors write.

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