Study: Red Meat Shaves Years Off Your Life

red meat

The next time you’re about to sink your teeth into a colossal hamburger or juicy porterhouse steak, consider the following: according to a recently published clinical study, the data suggests that eating red meat on a regular basis will make you more likely to die within a given period, especially if the red meat has been processed.

In other words, the study concluded that red meat shaves years off your overall life expectancy when regularly consumed as part of your overall dietary regime.

In addition, the study also found that by simply replacing the red meat with leaner, healthier protein sources including nuts, legumes, poultry and fish you can greatly lower your probability of dying at a younger age.

Regularly Consuming Red Meat Shortens Life Expectancy, Says Study

The study was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and included 84,000 women and 38,000 men. The average age among the female participants was 47, while the average age among men was 54 when the study began.

Over the course of the 28-year study, researchers distributed questionnaires regarding dietary choices to the participants every four years. The surveys were designed to reveal how often each participant ate certain foods during the study. By the time the study ended, 24,000 participants had died. A total of 9,500 deaths were attributed to cancer, while cardiovascular disease was responsible for another 5,900 deaths.

Linking Mortality Data to Red Meat Consumption

By comparing the mortality data to the dietary habits of those surveyed, the researchers were able to reach some concrete and rather alarming conclusions:

  • Eating one serving of unprocessed red meat each day (such as a steak the size of a deck of cards) increases your risk of death by 13%.

  • Eating one serving of processed red meat each day (such as two strips of bacon or a single hot dog) increases your risk of death by 20%.

  • Eating processed red meat boosts your chance of cancer death by 16%, and your chance of cardiovascular death by 21%.

In looking at what made red meat unhealthy, the researchers also discovered that those who substituted a healthier protein for a serving of red meat enjoyed the following reductions in their risk of death:

  • 19% reduction for nuts

  • 14% reduction for whole grains or poultry

  • 10% reduction for low-fat dairy or legumes

  • 7% reduction for fish

Finally, the researchers concluded that roughly 7.6% of female deaths and 9.3% of male deaths that occurred during the study would have been avoided if the participants had eaten no more than a half-serving of red meat per day.

Experts Weigh In

Dr. An Pan, one of the researchers behind the Harvard red meat consumption study, said that the study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that high rates of red meat consumption lead to health risks. The known dangers of eating red meat include an increased risk of developing conditions such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke.

Pan is confident in the accuracy of the study since the researchers compensated for several factors that could influence death risk, including family medical history, physical activity levels and age.

Dr. Dean Ornish, a researcher from the University of California who was not involved in the study, said that cutting back on red meat consumption would have positive effects not only for people, but for the environment as well. That’s because the agricultural infrastructure required to produce and distribute red meat is both expensive and heavily reliant on natural resources.

Red Meat Unhealthy: The Bottom Line

A recent study indicates that consuming red meat on a daily basis increases your risk of dying by up to 20%. The study found that processed red meat (such as a hot dog) is more detrimental to your health than unprocessed red meat (such as a steak). You can significantly improve your health by opting for other sources of healthy protein, such as nuts, legumes, fish and poultry.

The full text of the study can be found in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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