A study from the National Cancer Institute found individuals consuming the most red and processed meats at greater risk of death from cancer and heart disease versus those eating lower levels.
The ten year study began in 1995 and evaluated the dietary intake of over 500,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71. The study divided types of meat into three categories – red meat, white meat, and processed meat.
Red meat was defined as beef, pork, ham, bacon, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork sausage, and steak. As well as meats found in foods like pizza, stews, and lasagna.
White meat was classified as fish, chicken, and turkey.
Processed meat included white or red meats that were cured, dried, or smoked, such as bacon, chicken sausage, lunch meats, and cold cuts.
Individuals eating red meat at the highest levels consumed ~4.5 ounces per day based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. This is equal to approximately 2 pounds of beef or pork each week. Compare this to the group with the lowest intake of red meat at 5 ounces per week or ~ 0.5 ounce 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.
Men eating red meat at the higher levels each day had a 31% greater risk of dying and women 50% greater risk of dying due to heart disease. 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.
This doesn’t mean you need to switch to a vegetarian diet. Individuals eating white meat had a slightly lower risk of death.
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.
Here are some tips for making wise meat selections.
- Select lean cuts of meat, such as your “loins” and “rounds”.
- Choose cuts of meat with the least amount of marbling (visible fat).
- Trim visible fat before cooking.
- Marinate before grilling. May decrease formation of carcinogens if marinated in beer or wine prior to cooking.
- Broil versus frying or roast large cuts and skim off the fat.
- Drain oil and rinse ground beef in hot water to decrease fat.
All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
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