Increasing the amount of beef, lamb and sausages in your diet may shorten your life, new research claims.
Scientists have linked red and processed meat to a range of diseases, and the World Health Organization has classed them as a cause of cancer. But establishing whether they could be linked to premature deaths is difficult.
Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests there is a link between changed eating habits – eating substantially more red meat and processed meat, such as bacon and ham – and a raised risk of dying early. Cutting back and eating more fish, chicken, vegetables and nuts appears to reduce the risk.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers in the US and China, looking at the eating habits of about 54,000 women and 28,000 men over eight years and the death rates over the following eight years. All those involved were health professionals in the US in the 1980s and 90s.
Every four years, they were asked to fill in a questionnaire which asked them how often they ate different sorts of foods, from “never or less than once per month” to “six or more times a day”. There were more than 14,000 deaths during the study period, which ended in 2010. The leading causes were cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and neurodegenerative disease.
The researchers found that increasing total red and processed meat intake by 3.5 servings a week or more over an eight-year period was associated with a 10% higher risk of death in the next eight years.
Eating more processed meat raised the risk of early death higher than eating unprocessed red meat – 13% versus 9%.
Cutting out one serving of red meat per day and eating fish instead reduced the risk of death in the next eight years by 17%. Read more