Editor’s Note: This post is a Care2 favorite, brought back by popular demand. It was originally published on April 23, 2013. Enjoy!
What’s the news in nutrition these days?
We knew that already, you say?
Sure, but it turns out they can kill you even faster than we thought.
According to Dr. Frank Hu, co-author of a new Harvard study on the topic, what is new “is the magnitude of risk associated with very moderate red meat consumption.” Predictably, the magnitude is greater. And the magnitude for processed meat is even greater than that.
The Harvard study concluded that one serving of red meat a day increases the risk of early death by 13 percent. The same single daily serving of processed meat (like bacon or hot dog) increases that risk by 20 percent. And “one serving” means that little deck-of-cards sized lump that doesn’t satisfy anyone over the age of 10.
Hu acknowledged that “it’s not really surprising because red meat consumption has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. What is surprising is the magnitude of risk associated with very moderate red meat consumption.”
The study, published on March 12th in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, followed over 120,000 U.S. health professionals for 28 years. Every four years the subjects completed food questionnaires.
The researchers had to tease out the health effects of red meat from all the other bad habits beef-eaters tended to have, like smoking, drinking and physical inactivity. Even when they accounted for all the other terrible things research subjects were doing to their bodies, the strong association between red meat and death still stood out.
Eating more healthful protein sources in place of red meat has a significant positive effect. Eating nuts instead of red meat decreased a person’s mortality risk by 19 percent.
Even eating higher-quality beef can help, says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. He recommended eating “a vegetarian dinner once or twice a week. And when you eat red meat, switch to leaner cuts and grass-fed cattle,” because when you eat an animal you are also eating whatever the animal ate.
Hu summarized, “I think the public health message is pretty straightforward. We should switch from a red meat-based diet to a plant-based diet with healthier protein choices.”
We should switch to a plant-based diet? Huh. That isn’t news either.
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