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New Study Shows Unprocessed Red Meat, Processed Meat Intake Associated with Higher Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease


Metabolomic signatures identified in red and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of IHD, according to new findings.

©Gary Scott/AdobeStock

©Gary Scott/AdobeStock

Findings from a new cohort study indicate that metabolomic signatures related to unprocessed red meat and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD).

“Our findings from observational and genetic analyses indicate that the identified red and processed meat related metabolomic signatures, which mainly consist of lipid metabolites, are associated with an increased risk of IHD,” wrote first author Xue Dong, MD, of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health at Peking University in Beijing, and colleagues.

Findings were published in the April 4, 2023, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“The evidence is equivocal on the association between meat consumption and ischemic heart disease (IHD) risk. To what extent the variation of individuals’ metabolic responses to the same diet may account for this association is not fully understood,” wrote Dong and colleagues. “We aim to identify metabolomic signatures characterizing consumption of unprocessed red meat and processed meat and whether such signatures are associated with IHD risk.”

Using data from the UK Biobank, researchers identified metabolomic signatures that characterized metabolic response to processed meat and unprocessed red meat within a cohort of 92 246 persons (mean age, 56.1 years; 55.1% women).

Weekly meat consumption was assessed using a touchscreen dietary questionnaire, and plasma metabolome was assessed using high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

To test the association of meat intake with IHD, researchers used Cox proportional hazards regression model. “Genome-wide association analysis and 1-sample Mendelian randomization were performed for metabolomic signatures and causal association of signatures with IHD,” wrote authors.

During a median follow-up of 8.74 years, researchers documented 3059 incident IHD events.

Using elastic net regularized regressions, investigators constructed metabolomic signatures consisting of 157 and 142 metabolites for unprocessed red meat (Spearman correlation coefficient [r]=0.223) and processed meat (r=0.329), respectively. In a fully adjusted model, these metabolomic signatures showed positive associations with incident IHD for red meat (hazard ratio [HR] per SD increment 1.11, 95% CI 1.06-1.16; P<.001) and processed meat (HR 1.16, 95% CI 1.11-1.21; P<.001).

The genome-wide association analysis identified 45 and 4 loci for red meat metabolomic signature and processed meat metabolomic signature, respectively. Mendelian randomized demonstrated that participants in the highest quintile of predicted metabolomic signature for red meat had a higher risk of IHD than those in the lowest quintile (adjusted HR [aHR] 1.38, 95% CI 1.00-1.90). Similarly, subjects in the highest quintile of predicted metabolomic signature for processed meat had a higher risk of IHD than those in the lowest quintile (aHR 1.64, 95% CI 1.06-2.53).

“Further research into metabolomic signatures and biological pathways of the constituting metabolites may provide novel understanding on biological mechanisms through which meat consumption impacts heart disease,” concluded authors.

Reference: Dong X, Zhuang Z, Zhao Y, et al. Unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption, plasma metabolome, and risk of ischemic heart disease: A prospective cohort study of UK Biobank. J Am Heart Assoc. 2023;12:e027934.

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