Put Down That Burger! Processed Red Meat Linked to Mortality Rates


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Red meat may be worse than you thought: Image by lockstockb

One more steak isn’t going to kill you, right? Maybe, or maybe not – a new study, published today in Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA/Archives journal shows that red meat is linked with increased risk of mortality. Whether you want to avoid dying of cardiovascular disease or cancer, you reduce your chances of dying by reducing your consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat.

Lower Cancer and Cardiovascular Risk? Lead Author An Pan, Ph.D. Elaborates

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview lead author, An Pan, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, to discuss this research.

Decoded Science: So, simply replacing a single serving of red meat daily with a serving of other foods such as poultry, nuts, or legumes, we reduce our mortality risk considerably. This leads to another question: Does the reduction of mortality risk increase as red meat is eliminated from the diet entirely?

Dr. Pan: Theoretically, yes. But it is very difficult to do. And the benefits we gain from reducing from 1 serving/wk to 1 serving/mo may not be the same as we go from 1 serving/d to 1 serving/wk. Some short-term studies even found that a small amount of meat to the diet for vegetarians may provide some nutritional benefits. So the overall message is that we should try to reduce the unprocessed red meats intake and replace with other healthy protein sources; for the processed red meats, we should avoid them.

Decoded Science: Speaking of processed red meat, it appears to be considerably worse than unprocessed red meat, according to your findings – could you elaborate on the type of processing that this refers to?

Dr. Pan: In our study, processed red meat referred to bacon, hot dog, sausage, salami, bologna etc.

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