Red Meat and Your Health

In a blink of an eye, five years have passed and the Scientific Report of the 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has been published. The health consequences of eating processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and deli meat were evident when the 2015 guidelines were set, and the research to eat them sparingly has continued to accumulate (1).

Red Meat and Cancer

  • In 2015, following the review of over 800 epidemiological studies by 22 experts from 10 countries, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer identified consumption of processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer.” A meta-analysis found that each 50-gram portion of processed meat consumed daily raises the risk of colon cancer by 18%. This is the equivalent of just one hot dog a day!
  • In addition, the risk for breast, prostate, pancreatic, and overall cancer mortality increases with the daily consumption of 50 grams of processed meat. Experts suspect that pro-oxidative compounds, heme iron and nitrosames in processed meats have carcinogenic effects (2, 3).
Red Meat and Heart Disease
  • Research shows that processed meat also raises the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. A 2017 systematic review of studies on food groups and risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure found positive links between red meat consumption and the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Eating up to 150 grams of red meat per week is associated with a 10-20% increased risk in dose-response analyses. Red meat intake also raised the risk of stroke and heart failure by 15 to 25% with an intake of up to 70 grams daily (3).

Red Meat and Diabetes

  • The link between red meat intake and diabetes is also evident. The 2017 Singapore Chinese Health Study evaluated consumption of red meat, poultry, fish, heme iron, and risk for type 2 diabetes. Intake of heme iron from red meat increased risk for diabetes. A stronger correlation was seen in women than men, which the authors believe may be due to increased iron absorption in the gut. The researchers found that replacing 1 daily serving of red meat with fish or shellfish was significantly associated with a 26% lower risk (4) of diabetes.

By Lisa Andrews, Med, RD, LD

References:

  1. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/ScientificReport_of_the_2020DietaryGuidelinesAdvisoryCommittee_first-print.pdf
  2. https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Monographs-QA_Vol114.pdf
  3. Mozaffarian, D. 2016. Dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity: A comprehensive review. Circulation 133:187–225
  4. Angela Bechthold, Heiner Boeing, Carolina Schwedhelm, Georg Hoffmann, Sven Knüppel, Khalid Iqbal, Stefaan De Henauw, Nathalie Michels, Brecht Devleesschauwer, Sabrina Schlesinger & Lukas Schwingshackl (2019) Food groups and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 59:7, 1071-1090, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1392288.
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