A well done study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine as shown that red meat consumption is linked with an increased risk of total death, cardiovascular death and cancer death. Yup...death! That goes further than what we knew before about red meat connection to heart attacks and strokes. This is the big one.
This study looked at two large studies that contained 28 years of follow-up data: The Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study. The researchers excluded subjects that had a history of CVD or cancer at baseline or left more than 9 study questions blank. They ended up with 37,698 men and 83,644 women.
They found some interesting things. Both men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be smokers, drink alcohol and have a higher body mass index (fat!). Additionally, those with higher intake of meat had lower intakes of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Over time, (from 1986 to 2006) the daily intake of red meat dropped. (perhaps this was the result of public service education about the cardiovascular dangers of red meat that occurred during that time period)
This was a strong study. Because all of the participants were professionals, their education was similar. The study size was huge as were the years of follow-up. But the researchers could not differentiate between "lean" meat and higher fat content meat. They did find that bacon and hot dogs had higher risk than other types. They found that processed meats that contain sodium and nitrates increased cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.
If one serving of total red meat was substituted with l serving of fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products or whole grains daily, there was a lower risk of total mortality. The authors estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% of deaths in women could have been prevented if the participants consumed fewer than 1/2 serving per day of total red meat.