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Killer meat

March 23, 2009 |  5:08 pm

Before you dig into another hamburger, consider this: Americans who ate the most red meat boosted their overall risk of death by 30% during a 10-year period compared to those who ate the least, according to a new study. And before you switch to cold cuts instead, keep in mind that people who consumed the most processed meat raised their overall risk of death by at least 16%.

Burger Researchers at the National Cancer Institute studied a decade’s worth of data on the eating habits of 545,563 men and women who took part in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Participants filled out a diet history questionnaire that asked about 124 different foods, and the researchers used the responses to group people into categories based on how much red meat, white meat and processed meat they ate. Over the course of the study, 71,252 people died.

Those who ate more red meat were more likely to be smokers, overweight, exercise less and eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Among the one-fifth of people who ate the most red meat, the median intake was 62.5 grams per 1,000 calories per day; for the one-fifth who ate the least,it was 9.8 grams per 1,000 calories per day.

Men who were big meat eaters had a 22% increased risk of death from cancer and a 27% higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared with men who ate the least. For women, high red meat consumption raised the risk of death from cancer by 20% and the risk of heart disease by 50%, according to the study, to be published in Tuesday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Processed meats weren’t much better. The median intake among the top quintile was 22.6 grams per 1,000 calories per day, versus only 1.6 grams for those in the bottom quintile. Men who ate the most processed meats were 12% more likely to die from cancer and 9% more likely to get heart disease, while women boosted their odds of a fatal cancer by 11% and of heart disease by 38%, the study found.

The researchers calculated that if the heaviest red meat eaters ate as little as the people who consumed the least, they could prevent 11% of deaths among men and 16% of deaths among women.

The process of cooking meat produces several carcinogenic compounds that could be contributing to the higher risk of death, the researchers said. In addition, the iron in red meat may cause oxidative damage, while the saturated fat has been linked to breast and colorectal cancer.

Still hungry? Try white meat or fish. The more of that people ate, the less likely they were to die from cancer or anything else.

You’d also be doing the environment a favor, wrote Barry M. Popkin, a global nutrition and economics expert at the University of North Carolina, in an editorial that accompanies the study. Meat production takes up far more resources than growing fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, including two to five times as much water, he wrote. He also cited a recent United Nations report that blamed livestock for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions –- making them bigger polluters than all the cars and trucks on the planet.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (28)

What good is a life without steak anyway? We all die in the end anyway, so I say go out and have some steak. But of course, all things should be taken in moderation. :)

From my perspective, fresh fruits would be the best prevention & insurance of all.

"What good is a life without steak anyway? We all die in the end anyway, so I say go out and have some steak."

I could say the same for some hard core drugs or alcohol. But of course, everything in moderation.

The trouble with the world is that kindness is in moderation also. Be kind to humans (the ones we like), but not so for cows or other animals.

"...blamed livestock for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions."

I wonder how much greenhouse gases humans put out? Just like humans, got to put the blame on something other than ourselves. Animals have every right to be here as well as us. It's all part of the balance. Humans are the ones putting the earth out of balance. As far as eating meat is concerned, if we were not meant to eat meat we would not have the ability to digest it. I'm not giving it up. Just everything in moderation. Water will kill you if you drink too much of it. Duh!

This is partly also because no one eats meat like Americans. In most countries a meat dish only has a little meat and lot of vegetables. Here we get a slab of meat.

You're not the body, but you still need to take care of it and give it respect. Eat veggies instead, less karma and better for that body you're in now.

"The researchers calculated that if the heaviest red meat eaters ate as little as the people who consumed the least, they could prevent 11% of deaths among men..."

Something tells me the researchers didn't say that at all. For one thing, it's impossible to prevent death. 100% of us are going to die. What they probably said was, of the men in the study who died during the study, 11% would probably not have if they'd eaten less red meat. The key here, of course, is the caveat "during the study."

Assuming that to be the case, and assuming that half the participants and deaths were men, then 11% would mean the temporary avoidance of 3,919 deaths. That's 1.4% of all the men in the survey. 1.4% ! If all men ate less red meant, 1.4% might live longer.

I'm not sure those 5 college classes did Ms. Kaplan much good.

Plant-eaters are fat. Meat-eaters are lean. Vegetarians aren't any healthier than balanced diet eaters.

"This is partly also because no one eats meat like Americans. In most countries a meat dish only has a little meat and lot of vegetables. Here we get a slab of meat."
Have you tried either Argentine or Brazilian food man?

So the argument goes, if one stops eating red meat one will aid and abet the environment? Yet, what of ice-cream, yogurt and other milk products, like cheese.
Should we not be looking for alternatives to milk based ice-cream, yogurt and cheese?

This article is making me crave prime rib, or the Big Boss Burger from Fosters Freeze. Alas, my dinner menu is only grilled steak and potatos tonight. But hey, I'll have a glass or two of red wine with it, and that's healthy right? :P

Great suggestions. The more you know the better you live and the longer you live the more you experience life to be and live to see and share more with love ones and greater chance to improve, since we are so imperfect people. LIVE LONG FOREVER. NEVER GIVE UP A GOOD LIVING. BETTER TO BE HEALTHY IN THE END THAN SUFFER TO THE END.

Even if these numbers are accurate it sounds like the danger is for those who eat the most red meat among us (and who are also less disciplined about other vices). As someone who probably only eats a little bit more meat than the average person, this article doesn't worry me, and hopefully doesn't worry most of its readers.

consider this: red meat is delicious

well im so glad that eating red meat raises my risk of death 30% because it's not like it was already at 100%

I'm gonna die someday anways, I may as well be happy when I do kick the bucket.

"Those who ate more red meat were more likely to be smokers, overweight, exercise less and eat fewer fruits and vegetables."

Hmm, very interesting article. Are we talking about "meat" eaters, necessarily, or are we talking about people that have a diet of only hamburgers, hot dogs and other nasty, fatty meats?

I eat meat quite often, but I stick to the really lean steaks. They taste way better than the fatty meats, and are a million times better for you!

- Rodneys

BEEF its whats for dinner!

"Those who ate more red meat were more likely to be smokers, overweight, exercise less and eat fewer fruits and vegetables"

So how much of the increased risk was from all these other factors?

Have they forgotten that we humans have evolved to eat meats? Eat meat in excess and expect to get sick. Sure that makes sense. But then eat anything in excess and expect to get sick.

Yet more misleading propaganda from vegetarianisms most hypocritical proponent.

Please refrain from making direct correlations. Notice that red meat did not necessarily cause premature death. It was most likely caused by a combination of the other factors, such as smoking and being overweight, that appeared in individuals who ate read meat:

"Those who ate more red meat were more likely to be smokers, overweight, exercise less and eat fewer fruits and vegetables."

You know what's so amazing? 4 oz of meat isn't anything that the food pyramid advises against: http://www.lavidalocavore.org/showDiary.do?diaryId=1279

Time to get food lobbying out of our nutrition policy? I think so.

Advocating eating less red meat? My God woman, why do you hate America?!

Wow, what a week. Red meat causes cancer, drinking causes cancer. WHats next? Breathing causes cancer?

RT
www.privacy-tools.us.tc

"Should we not be looking for alternatives to milk based ice-cream, yogurt and cheese?"

There are a variety of non-animal derived milks. Soy, Rice, Oat, Almond milks are very delicious. Give 'em a try! http://www.notmilk.com/

"Plant-eaters are fat. Meat-eaters are lean."

That's the same as saying that "all blondes are dumb and all brunettes are smart".

Unhealthy as they may be, food choices like macaroni & cheese, pizza, french fries, candy and fried vegetables ARE considered "vegetarian"... but a healthy and EDUCATED herbivore would most likely pass on those meal selections. One would be a fool to solely eat a diet of fattening foods lacking nutritional value (carnivorous or herbivorious) and expect to be healthy or "lean".


This study is a joke. No factors were controlled for, and all it involved was having people fill out a questionnaire? I don't think it could be any less scientific.

The first sentence of the article isn't even true:
"Americans who ate the most red meat boosted their overall risk of death by 30% during a 10-year period compared to those who ate the least, according to a new study"

All the study did was show a correlation, so we have no idea what caused the increased risk of death among red meat eaters.

"Those who ate more red meat were more likely to be smokers, overweight, exercise less and eat fewer fruits"
so if u r smoker, overweight, do not exercise do not eat vegetables and fruit AND u eat red meat, you are more likely to die, and u can blame it on the red meat???
research done by "Homer Simpson" Institute?

Studies only prove correlation, whoopty do. This article is nothing but a scare tactic. Everything comes into play when it comes to "is red meat bad for you" - genetics, environment, level of physical activity, etc.

This article makes it sound like you're gonna drop dead if you eat red meat. People should EDUCATE themselves on proper diets and then based on whats right for them, eat proper and balanced meals.

Too much of anything is a bad thing.

 


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