Friday, March 27, 2009

High Intake of Red and Processed Meats Increases Mortality Risk

A recent research supported by the National Institutes of Health, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has shown that daily intake of red and processed meats (examples: beef and pork) is associated with increased risk for death in older adults, while white meat (examples: chicken, turkey and fish) may have a small protective effect. This is the largest study ever, including more than a half million adults aged 50 to 71, who were followed for 10 years. After adjustment for BMI and smoking, those who had the highest red meat intake had significantly higher risk of dying overall, and of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Same applied to processed meat (examples: sausage, cold cuts or hot dogs). As the authors pointed out in the discussion of the article, meat is a source of several carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) which are formed during high-temperature cooking of meat. Iron in red meat may increase oxidative damage increasing the formation of N-nitroso compounds. While red meat is a major source of saturated fat (not good), fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (good). In 2004, the FDA Announced a Qualified Health Claim supporting that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart disease (coronary artery disease).

Reference article:

Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Mar 23;169(6):562-71. [PMID: 19307518] (Free Full Article)

Washington Post coverage