As the July 4th weekend approaches and thoughts of wonderful cook-outs begin to form, a study released this March in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People, March 23, 2009, Sinha et al. 169 (6): 562) cast some important light on just how much red meat one should be eating.
This 10 year study of over 500,000 people age 50 to 71 concluded “Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality”. The data is important to consider and some results are impressively sobering, such as the below excerpt from the Washington Post article:
After accounting for other variables that might confound the findings, such as smoking and physical activity, the researchers found that those who ate the most red meat — about a quarter-pound a day — were more likely to die of any reason, and from heart disease and cancer in particular, than those who ate the least — the equivalent of a couple of slices of ham a day.
Among women, those who ate the most red meat were 36 percent more likely to die for any reason, 20 percent more likely to die of cancer and 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease. Men who ate the most meat were 31 percent more likely to die for any reason, 22 percent more likely to die of cancer and 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease.
But before you throw out the barbeque altogether, the main conclusion of the data supports general current guidelines, including those from the AICR, supporting overall less red meat and increased fish and chicken consumption. As Walter Wilett from Harvard School of Public Health was quoted in the Post: “If you are eating meat twice a day and can cut back to once a day there’s a big benefit. If you cut back to two or three times a week there’s even more benefit. If you eliminate it entirely, there’s a little more benefit, but the big benefit is getting away from everyday red-meat consumption.” We would add that if you are eating red meat, strive for the leanest cuts and always target a high fiber intake.
To end this on an optimistic note, the AICR recently published a free brochure centered on pooled data from a myriad of studies, which supported how simple changes can prevent cancer. Among the most important changes, are eating largely a plant-based diet, reducing red meats (and avoiding all processed meats), exercising daily and maintaining an healthy weight. The report is found at Guidelines for Cancer Prevention.
If you are due for your annual physical exam or would like to discuss healthy eating habits in more detail with one of your EHS physicians, please feel free to call for an appointment.
Some other articles about eating meat:
Yours in health,