A new study says the more red meat you eat, the greater your risk of death, and that substituting other types of protein lowers mortality risk.

The study, by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 37,698 men from 1986 to 2008 and 83,644 women from 1980 to 2008 who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the start. Participants regularly filled out questionnaires about their diets.

There were 23,926 deaths in the group – 5,910 from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 from cancer.

The study found that each daily serving of red meat was associated with a 12 percent increased risk of death, and that processed meats such as bacon were associated with a 20 percent increased risk of death – even after controlling for the fact that people who eat the most of these kinds of meat are typically less physically active, more likely to smoke and have a higher body mass index. 

Substituting one serving per day of other foods (including fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains) for a daily serving of red meat was associated with a 7 percent to 19 percent lower mortality risk.

The conclusion in the study’s abstract states, “Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.”

The American Meat Institute, in a statement, criticized the study for using “notoriously unreliable self-reporting” about diet histories and “obtuse methods” to analyze the data.

Betsy Booren, AMI Foundation Director of Scientific Affairs, wrote, “Red and processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies that include weak and inconsistent evidence and stand in contrast to other research and to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.” 

Booren said “all of these studies” about risks associated with red meat “struggle to disentangle other lifestyle and dietary habits from meat and processed meat and admit that they can’t do it well enough to use their conclusions to accurately recommend people change their dietary habits.” She said evidence has shown, and common sense suggests, that a balanced diet and a healthy body weight are the keys to good health.

  • BB

    That “study” is worthless. Must have been funded by Chic-Fil-A. The last paragraph above is key. My grandpa lived into his 80s. He ate bacon and eggs everyday.
    What’s really killing us is the lack of exercise, subsidized junk food, and too much stress.

  • Allin58

    “evidence has shown, and common sense suggests, that a balanced diet and a healthy body weight are the keys to good health”
    So why isn’t that the headline?

  • bean counter

    Aw, what the hell. For once, let’s just complete the inevitable (but usually unspoken) mush-brained foodie extrapolation here. Sure we see predictions of more or less disease, greater or reduced life span. But foodies privately spin these nebulous statistics into a passionate, almost religious belief if you skip meat in most meals you will come away with a 7 – 19% chance that you will never die. Something even more virtuous than dying and getting into heaven. I hate to break the bad news to you preachers but…

  • Melanie

    I haven’t ready the study, only this article, but it begs more questions. Are those eating a larger amount of red meat consuming the extra serving as a fast food hamburger? Then, there isn’t much of a surprise. However, if you have someone eating a large amount of wild game as their red meat, as they do in the area I live in, and you are seeing higher rates, well, that gives a little more credence to a connection. It would be wrong to take the study and try to apply it to individuals without knowing more about their personal diet and exercise.

  • Travis

    I highly suggest people read Denise Minger’s analysis of this deeply flawed “study” here http://www.marksdailyapple.com/will-eating-red-meat-kill-you/#more27840

  • KJ

    Of course red meat on a daily basis is too much for anyone let alone the sedentary! Processed meats have added issues. Is this really news to you all?! I am sure you will all happily avoid the real issue here with your list of what is flawed about the study but the truth remains the same. Want to truly know the impact red meat is having on you? I challenge each and every one of you to replace your beef and beef by products (that means dairy) with vegetable based foods, some fish and some chicken for lest say 90 days. Than come back here to post your results about how the world, you, and your life and opinions, really look!