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Eating Red Meat Now Associated With Cardiovascular and Cancer Mortality

Eating Red Meat Now Associated With Cardiovascular and Cancer Mortality

It’s well established that regular consumption of red meat increases the risk of many chronic diseases—including diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer. For the first time, however, data from 2 large, long-term studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine associate daily consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat with death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

After adjustment for age and for risk factors that included physical activity, BMI, and smoking status, among others, 1 additional serving of meat eaten daily was associated with a 16% increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 10% increased risk of death from cancer.

What does this study tell us? Is red meat finally out altogether? Should you warn your patients to skip their steaks and burgers? Is red meat the whole problem?

Here to put this issue into perspective are Drs. Christopher Cannon and Payal Kohli. Dr Cannon, a senior investigator with the TIMI Study Group, is editor-in-chief of Cardiosource Science and Quality. He is also Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Physician in the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Kohli graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed her internal medicine training in Boston and is scheduled to start her fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at the University of California San Francisco in June 2012. Here with some answers and perspective on this study are Drs. Christopher Cannon and Payal Kohli, both of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Eating Red Meat: Cardiovascular and Cancer Risks

Eating Red Meat: Cardiovascular and Cancer Risks

Take-home Points

• Men and women who ate more red meat were less likely to be physically active and more likely to be current smokers, drink alcohol, and have higher BMI. Higher intake of red meat was also associated with reduced intakes of grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as lower intakes of fish and poultry.

• Nearly 1 in 10 deaths in men and 7.6% of deaths in women could be prevented if the population consumed fewer than 0.5 servings of red meat per day.

• Suggest to patients, and particularly those with risk factors for CV disease or cancer, to slowly cut back on red meat, not eliminate it altogether; suggest healthy replacements such as fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, or whole grains; and start by replacing 1 meal a week.

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