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Meat no more

Bad news for steak lovers.

The latest findings from two very large, well-known prospective cohort studies show that increasing your intake of red meat, even if it’s only by half a serving a day, significantly increases your risk of death.

And the increased mortality risk is independent of how much red meat you were eating to start with, what other lifestyle factors you make at the same time you increase your red meat intake or whether the meat is processed or unprocessed, although the association was stronger for processed meat, according to the research recently published in The BMJ.

The researchers were analysing data from Nurses’ Health Study (over 53,000 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up study (involving almost 28,000 men). Both US studies included repeated measures of diet and lifestyle factors, so the study authors were able to determine that increases in red meat consumption of at least half a serving a day over eight years was associated with a 10% higher mortality risk over the next eight years. The increase in deaths was generally related to cardiovascular or neurodegenerative disease.

It’s been known for some time that eating lots of red meat is not good for you, increasing your risk of chronic diseases and premature death. What we haven’t known (until now) is what difference changing your consumption of red meat over time does to this increased health risk.

Interestingly the analysis also found a decrease in red meat consumption was not associated with mortality. But if the meat intake was replaced by a healthy alternative then your risk of dying prematurely is lowered.

“A decrease in total red meat consumption and a simultaneous increase in the consumption of nuts, fish, poultry without skin, dairy, eggs, whole grains, or vegetables over eight years was associated with a lower risk of death in the subsequent eight years,” they said.

So it really is yet another nail in the coffin for the traditional Aussie high meat diet.

“Our analysis provides further evidence to support the replacement of red and processed meat consumption with healthy alternative food choices,” they concluded.



Zheng Y, Li Y, Satija A, Pan A, Sotos-Prieto M, Rimm E, et al. Association of changes in red meat consumption with total and cause specific mortality among US women and men: two prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2019 Jun 12; 365: I2110. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.l2110