Deep down, we all know that red meat isn't the healthiest thing to eat — but that doesn't stop us tearing into a bloody steak all too often. Sadly, new research suggests that red meat is behind one in 10 early deaths, so it might actually be time to make a real effort to cut back.
According to the study, carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, regularly eating red meat massively increases your risk of heart disease and cancer. The results come from studying more than 120,000 people over 28 years.
What kinds of risk are we talking about? Well, the paper, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that each extra daily serving of processed red meat — equivalent to a single hot dog or two strips of bacon — raises mortality rates by 20 per cent. The effect is smaller for unprocessed red meat like steak — though the researchers don't know exactly why — which increases mortality rates by 13 per cent. Professor Frank Hu, one of the researchers, told the Guardian:
"This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death. On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity [illness] and mortality."
If you're worried by the findings — and if you eat a lot of beef, lamb and pork you probably should be — there's an easy solution. First, limit your intake of red meat. The World Cancer Research Fund suggests, for example, that you eat a maximum of 1lb (0.5kg) of it a week. Instead, switch to fish or chicken; this new research also suggests that replacing red meat with either of those leads to a longer life. Happy eating. [Archives of Internal Medicine and The Guardian]
Image: Max Frank