8 Serious Diseases Linked to Red Meat Consumption, Warns National Cancer Institute

Red Meat Consumption Linked to 8 Diseases
iStock/gilaxia

A diet that regularly includes red meat increases the likelihood of developing eight serious diseases, finds new research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The study, published in the recent issue of the British Medical Journal, found that the higher one’s red meat consumption, the more the risks increased for developing cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease, and liver disease.

“This is an observational study,” lead author, Arash Etemadi, an epidemiologist with the National Cancer Institute told the New York Times, “and we can’t determine whether red meat is responsible for these associations. But we have a 16-year follow-up, and we had the numbers to look at different causes, and we can see that it’s happening.”

The study spanned nearly two decades and tracked the eating habits of more than half-a-million adults between the ages of 50 and 71.

“Compared with the one-fifth of people who ate the least red meat, the one-fifth who ate the most had a 26 percent increased risk of death from various causes,” reports the Times. The study looked at both unprocessed meat and those processed to include higher levels of nitrites and nitrates, already linked to numerous health risks.

This isn’t the first study to link red meat consumption with health risks; other research has found red meat consumption is connected to a greater risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease. It has also been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer as well as increased risk of obesity.

By contrast, a vegetarian diet has been linked to decreased risk of many of the same illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The American Medical Association recently urged hospitals to reduce animal offerings and instead add more plant-based menu options to their cafeterias and patient meals, “to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors.”

The NCI study comes just as California considers legislation known as AB 243, which would double the funding for the state’s beef checkoff program aimed at amping up the USDA efforts to increase beef consumption, like the “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” promotions.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.