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Eating Red Meat Increases Risk of Premature Death

A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of premature death. Although its association with chronic disease risk has been well-documented, this study was the first to show a clear relationship between red meat consumption and mortality.

Researchers observed a sample of over 120,000 American men and women over a 25 year period, tracking meat consumption, and the number and causes of death among study participants.

They found that total mortality risk increases by a whopping 20 percent with every serving of processed red meat consumed per day. Bacon and hot dogs were associated with the highest mortality risk.

Similarly, mortality risk increases by 13 percent with every daily serving of unprocessed red meat, such as steak or ham. Adjustment for other dietary and lifestyle factors did not significantly change the study’s findings.

“The study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Replacing even one serving of red meat with one serving of an alternative protein source each day was associated with a lower mortality risk, especially for plant-based options. Researchers saw a 19 percent mortality risk reduction by replacing red meat with nuts, 10 percent for legumes, and 14 percent for whole grains.

They estimated that between 8 and 10 percent of deaths could have been prevented over the course of the 25-year study period if all participants had consumed less than half a serving of red meat each day.

Image Credit: m.mate/Flickr