Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images.
Bad news for red meat lovers: A new long-term study published online this week from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that eating any type of red meat significantly ups one’s risk of premature death.
And contrary to what the researchers had hypothesized at the outset, processed meat isn’t the only culprit—unprocessed meat appears to increase the risk, as well.
The Los Angeles Times reports that eating a 3-ounce steak—roughly the size of a deck of cards—once per day upped the chances of dying during the study by 13 percent. Replace that serving with processed red meat, like a hot dog or two slices of bacon, and the risk shoots up to 20 percent among study participants.
While red meat has long been associated with increased risks of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, CNN points out that the study, which tracked upward of 110,000 adults for more than 20 years, is the first to investigate how swapping it out altogether might increase a person’s lifespan.
The LAT with more numbers:
"Eating a serving of nuts instead of beef or pork was associated with a 19% lower risk of dying during the study. The team said choosing poultry or whole grains as a substitute was linked with a 14% reduction in mortality risk; low-fat dairy or legumes, 10%; and fish, 7%.”
The Times reports that at least one researcher, who wasn’t involved in the study, questioned the data since there could be many errors in the way food questionnaires were collected over the years. But the Harvard researchers stood by their conclusion that no amount of red meat is good for human health.
"If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week," the lead author of the study told the paper. "That would have a huge impact on public health."
Meanwhile, vegetarian diet advocate Dean Ornish, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said that a plant-based diet’s benefits weren’t limited to human health: Going meatless helps cut U.S. annual health care costs, minimize the livestock industry which contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and slow the destruction of forests for pasture, he wrote.