Eating red meat 'increases your risk of early death'

Eating red and processed meat increases your likelihood of an earlier death, experts have warned.

We know, no one likes being told their favourite foods could kill them, but it must be done. We only care about your health.

A new study urges us all to swap red and processed meat for fish, eggs, and lean chicken (we don’t think that fried chicken burger counts as being especially virtuous, though).

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, examined the dietary habits of more than 81,000 people in the US.

People were asked how much they had eaten on average per year of different types of foods over the previous eight years, including red and processed meats (such as ham, hot dogs and bacon), nuts, fish, eggs, whole grains, legumes and chicken and turkey without skin.

The results showed that people who increased their red and processed meat intake by at least half a serving per day over the eight years had a 10% higher risk of dying in the subsequent eight-year period.

The increased risk for processed meat alone was 13% and was 9% for unprocessed red meat.

Half a serving of red meat counts as 42.5g, while half a serving of processed meat was marked as one rasher of bacon, half a hot dog, or 14g of a sausage. So even an extra sausage at breakfast could tip you into an early death risk.

Those who cut their intake of red and processed meat in favour of healthier proteins such as eggs, chicken, and fish, lived longer.

A decrease in red and processed meat consumption and a simultaneous increase in the consumption of nuts led to a 19% reduced risk of dying over an eight-year period.

Swapping a daily portion of meat for fish cut the risk by 17%, whole grains by 12% and poultry without skin by 10%.

Swapping to vegetables cut the risk by 10%, eggs by 8% and legumes by 6%.

All those numbers mean that if you want to live for a long time, replacing red meat (pork, beef, lamb) for fish, vegetables, whole grains, and chicken is the way to go.

The researchers said: ‘This association with mortality was observed with increased consumption of processed and unprocessed meat, but was stronger for processed meat

‘A decrease in total red meat consumption and a simultaneous increase in the consumption of nuts, fish, poultry without skin, dairy, eggs, whole grains, or vegetables over eight years was associated with a lower risk of death in the subsequent eight years.

‘These findings suggest that a change in protein source or eating healthy plant based foods such as vegetables or whole grains can improve longevity.’

Dr Giota Mitrou, director of research at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: ‘This new study reinforces our own evidence that eating red meat or processed meat increases the risk of cancer.

‘We know that the choices people make are a result of the environments that they live in, so we call on the Government to take a bold step and introduce policies, such as subsidies on healthier food like fruit and vegetables, that empower people to make these healthier swaps by making our daily environments healthier.

‘We recommend that people eat no more than three portions of red meat a week, as this provides a balance between the advantages of red meat as a source of essential nutrients and the disadvantages.

‘However, we recommend that people eat little or no processed meat, such as bacon.’

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