Red Meat Raises Risk of Diverticulitis

Medically Reviewed

Are you a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy? If your meat of choice is red—beef, pork, or lamb—you might be setting yourself up for some stomach woes, say researchers.

A study published in Gut online in January 2017 suggests that men who regularly eat unprocessed red meat have an increased risk of developing diverticulitis, a condition characterized by pea-size or larger pouches that form in the colon wall and become infected or inflamed.

Diverticulitis can cause abdominal pain, nausea, cramping, and constipation. The study consisted of more than 46,400 male health professionals, ranging in age from 40 to 75 at enrollment.

Over 26 years, men who consumed 13.5 servings of red meat a week had a 58 percent higher chance of developing diverticulitis than men who had 1.2 weekly servings.

Even after the researchers accounted for other lifestyle habits that contribute to diverticulitis, such as a low-fiber diet or inactivity, red-meat eaters still had a higher risk. Overall, risk increased by 18 percent with each daily serving of meat, plateauing after six servings a week.

If you want to cut back on red meat, try substituting one serving a day with poultry or fish—according to the study, that single substitution was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of diverticulitis.