In a new study from the University of Oxford, researchers found that regular meat consumption is linked to a range of diseases.
The results associate regular meat intake with a higher risk of various diseases, including heart disease, pneumonia and diabetes, but a lower risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
Consistent evidence has shown that excess consumption of red meat and processed meat (such as bacon and sausages) may be linked to an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
But up to now, it was not clear whether high meat consumption in general might raise or lower the risk of other, non-cancerous diseases.
In the study, the team used data from almost 475,000 UK adults, who were monitored for 25 major causes of non-cancerous hospital admissions.
The team found that overall, participants who ate unprocessed red meat and processed meat regularly (three or more times per week) were more likely than low meat-eaters to smoke, drink alcohol, have overweight or obesity, and eat less fruit and vegetables, fiber, and fish.
Higher consumption of unprocessed red meat and processed meat combined was linked to higher risks of ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia, diverticular disease, colon polyps, and diabetes.
For instance, every 70 g higher red meat and processed meat intake per day was associated with a 15% higher risk of ischaemic heart disease and a 30% higher risk of diabetes.
Higher consumption of poultry meat was linked to higher risks of reflux disease, gastritis and duodenitis, diverticular disease, gallbladder disease, and diabetes.
Every 30g higher poultry meat intake per day was linked to a 17% higher risk of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and a 14% greater risk of diabetes.
Further analysis showed that regular meat-eaters having a higher average body weight could be partly causing these associations.
The team also found that higher intakes of unprocessed red meat and poultry meat were linked to a lower risk of iron deficiency anemia.
The risk was 20% lower with every 50g higher per day intake of unprocessed red meat and 17% lower with every 30g higher per day intake of poultry meat. A higher intake of processed meat was not linked to the risk of iron deficiency anemia.
The research team suggests that unprocessed red meat and processed meat may increase the risk of ischaemic heart disease because they are major dietary sources of saturated fatty acids.
These can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, an established risk factor for ischaemic heart disease.
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The study is published in BMC Medicine. One author of the study is Dr. Keren Papier.
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