If you are one among the many who cannot resist that yummy, juicy steak of red meat, think twice. According to an observational study published in the BMJ, consuming red meat leaves you at a heightened risk of dying from any one of the 8 diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, liver malfunction, infections, and respiratory disease.
For the study, more than half a million men and women in the age group of 50 to 71 years were tracked for their health and diet for an average of 16 years. The researchers recorded the total meat consumption of all the participants. This included two distinct categories of red meat (beef, lamb and pork) and white meat (poultry and fish).
Upon analysis of the results, it was found that compared with the one-fifth of people who ate the least red meat, the one-fifth who ate the most had a 26 percent increased risk of death from various causes. On the contrary, those who consumed the highest proportion of white meat had a 25% reduced chance of dying from various causes compared with those who ate the least white meat.
The major cause of death during the study period was attributed to any one out of cancer, heart disease, stroke, or respiratory disorders. In fact, a WHO working group in 2015 also indicated a probable link between red meat and cancer.
THE REAL CULPRITS
Nitrates in red meat and a form of iron called “heme iron” are integral constituents of red meat. Two interesting findings came to light:
- The highest intake of “heme iron” resulted in 15% higher chances of premature death when compared with the lowest intake.
- The presence of nitrates in “processed” meat resulted in a 15% increased risk of death from all causes; whereas “unprocessed meat” nitrates contributed to 16% greater mortality risk.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
How accurately would the study participants be able to recall and report objectively on their eating habits is a question that the scientists may not be able to accurately answer. Also, one cannot overlook the fact that people’s diets change over time.
Without doubt, the findings of the study should definitely compel many adults to cut back on meat consumption, especially the red variety.
A healthy diet is important. Equally important is that you are in touch with a doctor who can give you the best health tips and take good care of your health when required.