Sherry A. Phillips

Suspense Author

Can eating red meat really kill you?

When I first heard about the research that eating red meat appears to increase the risk of heart disease and cancer by a dramatic amount, I wasn’t surprised. Because I have a history of cardiovascular disease on my father’s side of the family, I am especially wary of red meat.

Harvard University followed the health of 37,698 men and 83,644 women, who were all disease-free at the start of the study over a period of up to 28 years.

During this study period, 23,926 deaths occurred, with 5,910 from cardio-vascular disease and 9,464 from cancer. The researchers say there was a very strong link to the amount of red meat consumed.

Just one daily serving, about the size of a deck of cards, appeared to raise the risk of death by 13 percent. A single daily serving of processed meat (think hot dog, bacon or bologna), raised the risk of death by 20 percent.

And if you have an extra daily serving, it increases the risk by the same amount.

“We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, CVD and cancer mortality, and this association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat, with a relatively greater risk for processed red meat,” said the authors.

“Substitution of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products and whole grains for red meat was associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality.”

The risk of heart disease rose by 16 percent for each extra serving of red meat and 21 percent when you ate the processed junk. The cancer risk was increased by 10 percent for red meat, and 16 percent for processed.

The authors estimate that 9.3 percent of deaths in men during follow-up and 7.6 percent in women could have been prevented if all the participants had consumed less than half a serving per day of red meat.

“This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” says professor of nutrition and epidemiology Frank Hu.

“On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality.”

And this, is why I choose a vegetarian lifestyle.

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