Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Your Life

by Chris Curley on March 14, 2012

Before you reach for another helping of steak, stop and consider that you may be shaving years off of your life.

Every additional serving of red meat you eat daily may raise your risk of dying by somewhere between 13 and 20 percent over the next several decades compared to people who eat less meat, researchers led by Frank Hu, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health find in a pair of new studies.

A “serving” is three ounces of meat (about the size of a deck of playing cards) — a significantly smaller portion than most Americans consume.

Hu’s team estimates that around 9.3 percent of deaths among men and 7.6 percent of deaths among women could have been prevented if participants had eaten less than half a serving of red meat per day during the 28-year study period. Nearly 80 percent of men and over 90 percent of women consumed more than that, however, MedPage Today reported March 12.

Eating both processed and unprocessed red meat — including beef, pork, lamb, hamburgers, bacon, hot dogs, and sausage — increases your death risk, the study authors note. However, substituting healthier items like fish and poultry for meat, as well as increasing consumption of other nutritious foods like nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, may lengthen your lifespan.

“What we include in our diet is as important as what we exclude,” says Dean Ornish, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco in an editorial accompanying the research. “So substituting healthier foods for red meat provides a double benefit to our health.”

The study appears online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Reader Question: How many servings of red meat do you eat per week? 

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