Why You Need to Cut Back on Eating Red Meat

Why You Need to Cut Back on Eating Red Meat

Many experts in nutrition warn consumers about eating steaks and burgers saying that it increases the risk of death. However, people in the beef industry do not agree with this statement.

Threat to Long, Healthy Life

When you eat red meat a lot, you may be shortening your life span. Extend your life by eating fish and poultry instead.

Health experts identify red meat as one of the culprits for increasing the rates of death due to heart disease and other fatal illnesses like cancer.

Red meat is a good source of protein, but it also contains lots of fat. That is why it has been linked to incidents of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Study Links Red Meat to Increased Mortality

Dr. Frank Hu from the Harvard School of Public Health encourages people to opt for a plant-based diet. Doing so will significantly lower a person’s risk of the above-mentioned chronic diseases and prevent premature death.

Hus’ team followed up the cases of more than 120,000 participants in their study: 37,600 men were from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 83,600 women were from the Nurses’ Health Study.

In 28 years’ time, there were 24,000 participants who died and about 6,000 of them died as a result of cardiovascular disease. Another 9,000 died from cancer.

According to the analysis of Hu’s research team, which was published in the archives of Internal Medicine, there is a 12 percent increase in the risk of death when eating a serving of red meat daily. Specifically speaking, the risk is 13 percent when eating unprocessed red meat; and the risk is 20 percent when eating processed red meat.

To quantify a singe serving of red meat, it is approximately equal to the size of a deck of cards.

But if the red meat was replaced with fish, chicken, legumes, nuts, whole grains or low-fat dairy food, the result is a decreased risk of death.

There was a 7 percent decrease in the risk of death when eating fish, 14 percent when eating poultry, 19 percent when eating nuts, 10 percent when eating legumes, 14 percent when eating whole grains and 10 percent when eating low-fat dairy food.

The researchers also noted that cutting the red meat daily serving by half could have reduced the number of deaths during the 28 years period by 9.3% for men and by 7.6% for women.

Response from the Beef Industry

Shalene McNeill, a dietitian, speaks for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in behalf of the beef industry. She said that they agree with the scientific fact that eating lean beef is healthy is important in a balanced diet.

There is indeed clear evidence that taking lean beef improves nutrient intake and promotes positive health results. But there is not enough support to the idea that eating one particular type of food affects mortality. It is a combination of lifestyle patterns, healthy eating and physical exercise that affect man’s mortality.

McNeill also said that Hu’s report was a mere observational study. And the nature of such studies does not determine cause-and-effect relationships.

What Other Experts Are Saying?

Another nutritionist-dietitian supports the idea of reducing the intake of red meat.

Samantha Heller, who works at Derby, Connecticut’s Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital, challenged the idea that eating meat is part of human nature.

She said that many of the patients tell her that they were carnivores by nature in response to her suggestion that they avoid taking red meat and processed meat. What is ironic is that people are actually not good at processing all the meat, together with the saturated fat and iron, they consume.

The body accumulates inflammatory compounds, like nitrites and saturated fat, upon continuous eating of fresh and processed red meats. After some time, it would be impossible for the body to cope with the overwhelming quantity of these unhealthy substances.

The result is that the body gets all sorts of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Plenty of research studies have already proven the association of eating red meat, processed or not, with chronic disease and dying.

The Recommendation

It is a good idea to go meatless on certain days of the week, because it can help a lot in reducing your risk of having any of the top chronic diseases.

A good start is to eat red meat once or twice each week. Then, turn to fish, chicken, beans, whole grains and nuts for protein on the other days of the week.

Photo credits: Peppercorn Beef Shoulder Fillet Steak by Michael Johnson via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Categories: Health, Nutrition
Tags: red meat

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