- Researchers also say eating two servings of red or processed meat each week raises risk of death by any cause.
- Study flies in face of recent analysis which suggested people don’t need to cut back on meat intake.
EVANSTON, Ill. — If you love sitting down for big steak dinner or look forward to summer barbecues, modern science has some bad news. A new comprehensive study conducted by Cornell University and Northwestern University has come to some eye-opening findings regarding the influence of meat on one’s long-term health outlook. Simply put, eating meat is not healthy. Processed meat, red meat, and even chicken will raise your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and any meat besides chicken will raise your risk of dying from all causes.
According to the research team, consuming two servings of red meat, processed meat, or poultry on a weekly basis results in a 3-7% higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Additionally, two servings of red or processed meat per week was associated with a 3% higher chance of death by any cause.
“It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats,” says senior study author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a release. “Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”
“Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level,” adds lead study author Victor Zhong, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University.
For what it’s worth, this study comes as a fairly direct rebuttal of another study that was published that past November that proclaimed meat was perfectly healthy to eat regularly.
“Everyone interpreted that it was OK to eat red meat, but I don’t think that is what the science supports,” Allen comments regarding the previous study.
“Our study shows the link to cardiovascular disease and mortality was robust,” Zhong adds.
The idea of completely cutting meat out of one’s diet may seem overwhelming to some. Let’s face it, meat and chicken are staples of a typical U.S. diet. For many Americans, it’s hard to imagine a day-to-day existence without the occasional cheeseburger or chicken burrito. If you’re looking for alternatives to meat that provide the same levels of protein and nutrients, researchers recommend seafood, nuts, beans, and peas.
Researchers analyzed 29,682 participants for this study, all with a median age of just under 54 years old. In all, 44.4% were male, and 30.7% were non-Caucasian. Participants were gathered from six different cohorts, and each individual self-reported on their eating habits over the previous year or month.
There was actually a 4% increase in heart disease risk associated with eating chicken two times per week, but the study’s authors say they still don’t have enough evidence on the matter to make a concrete recommendation regarding poultry. Much of the heart risk linked to chicken may have more to do with how the poultry is prepared or whether people eat the skin rather than just eating chicken meat itself.
Although, if you’re looking to cut back on some chicken, researchers say fried chicken is by far the most unhealthy poultry dish out there.
There were also absolutely no associations found between eating fish and heart disease or mortality.
The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.