Red Meat Consumption, Heart disease, and Diabetes: The Largest Study Ever Says Beware

You would think we would know by now what is the optimal diet for health and longevity but the "food wars" are endless. One reason is that nutrition science is very complicated and randomized studies (like the Predimed and Cordioprev trials) are difficult and rare. Much of the science is based on "observations" of dietary patterns and health outcomes. 

Many of the observational studies performed do show an association of red meat consumption with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes mellitus type 2 (DM2). More data is needed. 


The study was a systematic review and meta-analysis conducted to summarize the evidence concerning the associations of unprocessed and processed red meat consumption with CVD and its subtypes [coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and heart failure], DM2, and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and to assess differences by sex and setting (western vs. eastern, categorized based on dietary pattern and geographic region).
Forty-three observational studies involving 4,462, 810 participants (62% women) were analyzed for CVD and 27 observational studies involving 1,760,774 (64% women) were analyzed for for DM2 were included.
Red meat consumption was positively associated with CVD and included both unprocessed red meat and processed red meat for CVD subtypes, DM2, and GDM. The associations showed no differences by gender.


Unprocessed and processed red meat consumption are both associated with higher risk of CVD, CVD subtypes, and DM2.


The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen for humans and red meat as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans, which means both types of meat could harm human health.

The researchers were from Hong Kong and indicated their concerns about trends in the local diet. "Meat imports in Hong Kong continue to rise, reflecting growing meat consumption in Hong Kong. If Hong Kong people continue to increase meat consumption, we may see a similar situation to what we see in the US, Europe and Australia, with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes."


The largest study ever performed lends strong nutrition guidance to reducing or avoiding all red meats. The study did not analyze the difference between factory farmed animal production versus grassfed or the difference between organic and conventional farming methods but there is no credible evidence to suggest the risk would disappear with the less available of often more expensive selections.



Dr. Joel Kahn

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