Red meat consumption increases risk of death- study

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Gbenga Adeniji

An individual who persistently consumes red meat is increasing his risk of death, a study carried out in the United States has disclosed. The study states that red meat is not only unhealthy but can be surely toxic.

The research indicates that regular intake of red meat – particularly the processed assortment – noticeably increases the risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

According to the study, each additional daily serving of processed red meat, equivalent to one hot-dog or two rashers of bacon, raised the chances of dying by a fifth. It however reveals that leaving red meat out of the diet showed major gains.

Online source defines red meat as a meat which is red when raw and not white when cooked. It adds that in nutritional sciences, red meat includes some mammal meat and some fowl.

It adds, “In gastronomy, red meat is darker-coloured meat, as contrasted with white meat. The exact definition varies by time, place, and culture, but the meat of adult mammals such as cows, sheep, and horses is invariably considered red, while chicken and rabbit is invariably considered white. The meat of young mammals such as milk-fed veal calves, sheep, and pigs is traditionally considered white; while the meat of duck and goose is considered red.” The source also adds that red meat neither refers to how well a piece of meat is cooked nor its colouration after it has been cooked.

However, the study says that replacing red meat with fish, poultry, or plant-based protein foods showed increased lifespan.

It further discovers that intake of nuts showed a reduction in the risk of dying by 20 per cent – which causes a swap of roast beef for nut roast.

The study analysed data from 121,342 men and women taking part in two large US health and lifestyle investigations to arrive at the findings.

The lead author of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Rashmi Sinha, points to a large number of studies that link red meat consumption with chronic diseases. Besides, the study checked participants’ progress for more than 20 years and gathered information about their diet.

According to the research, in total, scientists documented 23,926 deaths including 5,910 from heart disease and 9,364 from cancer. Senior author, Prof. Frank Hu, from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said, “This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death.

“On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity (illness) and mortality.”

Also, the Cancer Prevention Charity of the World Cancer Research Fund advises that people should avoid processed meat entirely and limit their consumption of red meat to 500g a week.

Dr. Rachel Thompson, the charity’s deputy head of science, states, “This study strengthens the body of evidence which shows a link between red meat and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The research itself seems solid and is based on two large-scale cohort studies monitored over a long period of time.”

However, the findings of the study have been challenged by Dr. Carrie Ruxton from the Meat Advisory Panel, an expert body funded by the meat industry.

She says, “This US study looked at associations between high intakes of red meat and risk of mortality, finding a positive association between the two. However, the study was observational, not controlled, and so cannot be used to determine cause and effect.

“The authors’ conclusion that swapping a portion of red meat for poultry or fish each week may lower mortality risk was based only on a theoretical model. This conflicts with evidence from controlled trials.”

Ruxton says that meat and meat products were major sources of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, B vitamins and vitamin D. The dietary expert argues that in the UK, red meat is “critically important” to zinc intake, contributing 32 per cent of the total for men and 27 per cent for women. She adds that red meat also contributes around 17 per cent of total dietary iron intake in the UK.

Ruxton adds, “In summary, this paper should not be used to dissuade people from reducing their current intake of red meat when it provides essential nutrients that are required as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

Earlier, a research conducted by the National Institute of Health on more than a half-million older Americans discovered that those who ate the most red meat and processed meat over a 10-year-period were likely to die sooner than those who ate smaller amounts.

It also noted that people who ate about 4 ounces of red meat a day were more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than those who ate the least- about a half-ounce a day.

The meat industry then contended that there was no link between red meat, processed meats, and cancer, adding that lean red meat fits into a heart-healthy diet. A Senior Vice-President of the American Meat Institute, Janet Riley was quoted to have said that the foods those people ate cannot prove cause and effect, saying “Many of these suggestions could be nothing more than statistical noise.”

But many studies have reportedly found similar links. For instance, another research that followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years found that those who ate a Western-style diet high in red and processed meats, desserts, refined grains, and French fries had an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from other causes.

“The association between consumption of red and processed meats and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, is very consistent,” says Dr. Mari McCullough, a nutritional epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society.


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