Grilled Bacon Maple Banana Bites.
Credits: (Courtesy of Dole)
Eating red meat significantly increases the risk of premature death from heart disease and cancer, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Researchers conducted an analysis of long-term data on more than 120,000 men and women. Participants' diets were assessed every four years, over a period up to 28 years.
About one-fifth of participants died from cardiovascular disease and cancer - 5,910 and 9,464, respectively.
After adjusting for age, body mass index, family history and other factors, the researchers concluded that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat, about the size of a deck of cards, was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality.
They also calculated that one daily serving of processed red meat, such as one hot dog or two slices of bacon, was associated with a 20% increased risk.
The culprits, they said, are ingredients like saturated fat, sodium and nitrites in the meat, as well as certain carcinogens that form during the cooking process - all of which have long been linked to an elevated risk for chronic diseases.
Conversely, the researchers said, replacing one serving of red meat with one serving of a healthy protein was associated with a lower mortality risk: 7% lower for fish, 14% for poultry, 19% for nuts, 10% for legumes, 10% for low-fat dairy products, and 14% for whole grains.
An estimated 9.3% of the deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented if all the participants had consumed less than half a serving per day of red meat, the study said.
The study appears online in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.