Do you enjoy a juicy steak? Well, it may be shortening your life. A National Cancer Institute study shows individuals with a high intake of red and processed meats at higher risk of heart disease versus those with a lower intake.
The ten year study evaluated 500,000 men and women, ages 50 to 71, starting in 1995 dividing meat intake into three categories - red meat, white meat, and processed meat.
Red meat equaled beef, pork, ham, bacon, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork sausage, and steak, along with meats found in pizza, stews, and lasagna.
White meat included fish, chicken, and turkey.
Processed meat was classified as white or red meats that were cured, dried, or smoked (i.e. bacon, chicken sausage, lunch meats, and cold cuts).
Study participants consuming the highest intake of red meat ate ~4.5 ounces per day based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. This is equal to approximately 2 pounds of red meat each week. The group with the lowest intake of red meat consumed approximately 5 ounces per week or 0.5 ounces per day.
Those with the highest intake of processed meat consumed approximately 1.5 ounces per day versus the lowest intake group at 0.11 ounces per day.
The study found that 11% of all deaths in men and 16% of all deaths in women could've been prevented by consuming the lower levels of red meat. Looking at just heart disease, death due to heart disease could have been reduced 11% in men and 21% in women if red meat intake was reduced from the highest level to the lowest.
A high intake of processed was linked to a 16% increased risk of dying for men and 25% increased risk for women.
Possible reasons for the increased risk of death linked to eating red meat and processed meat maybe due to the carcinogens formed during cooking, iron in red meat causing oxidative cell damage, and/or saturated fat in red meat increased cancer risk and elevated cholesterol levels.
This doesn't mean you need to switch to a vegetarian diet. Individuals eating white meat had a slightly lower risk of death. Meat is a great source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12. The key is to eat a well balanced diet that includes healthy lean meat sources and lower fat cooking methods, while strictly limited intake of processed meats. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting red meat intake to less than 18 ounces per week or 2.5 ounces per day and to avoid processed meats.
Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps and take steps to reduce heart disease risk today.