Carnivore's Complaint: More Meat, More Mortality

Grace Halsey

US consumption of red meat remains twice the global average. New research highlights the consequences of that intake in terms of all-cause mortality.

Average United States consumption of red meat has declined over the past 20 to 30 years but it is still twice the global average. That intake has consequences, according to new research.

Among adults in the US, an increase in red meat consumption over 8 years was directly associated with mortality risk during the subsequent 8 years. These findings, published June 12, 2019 in the BMJ, are based on an analysis of 2 recent prospective cohort studies.

Researchers found that an increase of at least half a serving per day of total red meat consumption was linked with a 10% higher risk in all-cause mortality. This rise-greater with processed meat (13%) vs unprocessed meat (9%)-was independent of initial red meat intake and concurrent changes in lifestyle factors. Also, a decrease in total red meat consumption along with an increase in consuming alternative protein sources and healthy plant-based foods over 8 years was shown to improve longevity in the following 8 years.

Other findings of interest 

  • An increase of 1 serving/day of processed meat over 8 years was associated with a 19% higher risk of death from CVD and a 57% higher risk of death from neurodegenerative disease.

  • Association of mortality risk with changes in consumption of red meat remained consistent across participant subgroups identified by age, physical activity level, dietary quality, smoking status, or alcohol consumption.

  • Normal weight participants had a 13% higher risk of death with increase of 1 serving/day of red meat over 8 years.

  • Overweight/obese participants: increased risk was lower and the interaction was positive for women only.

Below is a quick take on shifts in red meant consumption patterns in men and women.