There is strong evidence that suggests eating too much red meat, such as bacon and hot dogs, has been linked to health issues.
According to a new study, changes in your red-meat-eating habits can be associated with an increased risk of premature death.
The study published Wednesday in the medical journal BMJ found that “an increase in red meat consumption of at least half a serving per day was linked with a 10% higher risk of early death.”
Senior study author Dr. Frank Hu said, “The data suggest that replacing red meat with other protein sources, such as poultry, fish, nuts, legumes and whole grains and even vegetables, can reduce the risk of premature death.”
He added, “What we found is that increasing the consumption of red meat is associated with higher mortality risk, and the risk is particularly high for people who increased their consumption of processed red meat.”
The researchers looked at the data of more than 53,550 women and 27,900 men in the United States from 1986 to 2010. They analyzed their eating habits and mortality risk.
They tracked how much red meat and other foods each individual ate on a daily basis for every four years by asking them certain questions. They then calculated the changes made in their eating habits over time.
After analyzing their diet and mortality data, the researchers found that “an increase of at least half a serving per day of processed and unprocessed red meat was associated with 13% and 9% higher risk of early death, respectively, within eight years.”
They also found that an increase in eating whole grains, vegetables, and other protein sources, and a decrease in eating red meat was linked to lower mortality over eight years.
Dr. Hu said, “When people reduce their red meat consumption and eat other protein sources — and also plant-based foods — instead, they have a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality.”
Dr. Heather Fields, an internal medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic, said, “The study provides valuable and informative data regarding the associations of red meat with poor health outcomes,” who was not part of the research.
“We’ve also seen that replacing red and processed meats with other protein sources has been associated with decreased risk of mortality in this study and in past studies,” said Dr. Fields.
She added, “Keeping these findings in mind, we can now shift focus on which foods we can add to the diet to improve longevity and decrease risk of chronic diseases. In addition, how can we prepare these foods to optimize nutrient intake while improving palatability and make healthy eating more enjoyable? This is where nutrition research gets exciting.”
The research had a few limitations, such as the dietary data was self-reported and most of the participants were registered nurses and medical professionals.
Larger studies are required to determine whether similar results would emerge in a more diverse group of people.
Also, the study pointed out an association between increasing red meat consumption and mortality risk but did not find the exact cause. So, more studies are needed to determine a causal relationship. However, Dr. Hu said, “Previous research has shown that higher amounts of saturated fat, heme iron, preservatives and other components in meat may contribute to adverse health outcomes.”