People who eat too much red meat and processed meat are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and other causes than those who eat less, according to a U.S. study.
The study of more than 500,000 middle-aged and elderly Americans began in 1995. Participants were between the ages of 50 and 71, and all provided detailed information about their food intake.
The results showed that those who consumed highest proportion of red meat, about 4.5 ounces (127.6 grams, the equivalent of a small steak), every day were more than 30 percent more likely to die in the following 10 years, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Processed meats also increased the risk.
Conversely, those who ate the highest proportion of white meat had a lower risk of overall death, and a lower risk of fatal cancer or heart disease than those who ate the lowest proportion.
"We found the consumption of red and processed meat is associated with a modest increase in overall mortality, as well as cancer and cardiovascular mortality in both men and women," says study researcher Rashmi Sinha, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute.
Cutting down on red meat and processed meat would result in a "meaningful saving of lives," said Barry Popkin, the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, Chapel Hill.
The new study published in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine is the first large examination of the relationship between eating meat and overall mortality.
For the study, red meat included beef, pork, bacon, ham, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork sausage, steak, and meats in foods such as pizza, stews, and lasagna.
White meat included turkey, fish, chicken, chicken mixtures, and other meats.
Processed meat was either white or red meat that was cured, dried, or smoked, such as bacon, chicken sausage, lunch meats, and cold cuts.