Eating too much red meat can strongly increase risks of major chronic diseases and early death

red meat beef

Red meat, including beef, veal, pork, lamb and mutton, is very common in our daily life.

It can contribute several important nutrients to the diet, for example essential amino acids, vitamins (e.g., B12) and minerals such as iron and zinc.

People often process red meat using curing, smoking, or salting and add chemical preservatives and additives to improve the taste of the final product (ham, sausages, bacon, frankfurters, salami, etc.)

During recent decades, red meat has become more popular, especially in developing countries. At the same time, more research evidence shows that eating too much red meat, especially processed meat, may be associated with higher risk of several major chronic diseases.

In a new summary conducted by Karolinska Institutet in Stockhom, Sweden, researchers examined the accumulated evidence based on prospective cohort studies.

These studies focused on negative effects of eating red meat on major chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and cancer at several sites, and mortality.

Based on at least 6 studies, researchers find that eating unprocessed red meat  100g per day could increase risks of many disease: 11% for stroke and for breast cancer, 15% for cardiovascular mortality, 17% for colorectal and 19% for advanced prostate cancer.

Furthermore, eating processed red meat 50g per day could strongly increase the risks for most of the studied diseases: 4% for total prostate cancer, 8% for cancer mortality, 9% for breast cancer, 18% for colorectal, 19% for pancreatic cancer, 13% for stroke, 22% for total mortality, 24% for cardiovascular mortality, and 32% for diabetes.

Researchers suggest that high consumption of the meat, and especially processed meat, is associated with an increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality. In addition, production of the meat involves an environmental burden.

Therefore, some European countries have already integrated these two issues, human health and the ‘health of the planet’, into new dietary guidelines and recommended limiting consumption of red meat.

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Citation: Wolk A. (2016). Potential health hazards of eating red meat. Journal of Internal Medicine, published online. DOI: 10.1111/joim.12543.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.