The SparkPeople Blog

In the News: Is Eating Red Meat Bad For Your Health?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/5/2009 6:05 AM   :  261 comments

If red meat is a staple of your diet, you might want to reconsider how much of it you're eating. A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at the diet of more than 500,000 Americans over a span of 10 years. It found that (other things being equal), men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from heart disease and cancer, than those who consumed much less. The increased mortality risk from consuming higher levels of red meat ranged from 20 to 40 percent.

"Red meat consumption ranged from a low of less than an ounce a day, on average, to a high of four ounces a day, and processed meat consumption ranged from at most once a week to an average of one and a half ounces a day," according to the study. Researchers suggest limiting hamburgers to once or twice a week, a small steak to every other day, and a hot dog to every 6 weeks.

In the study, those participants who consumed larger amounts of fish and white-meat poultry, and those who consumed larger amounts of fruits and vegetables tended to live longer than those who did not. Poultry and fish contain lower amounts of saturated fat than red meat, and fish also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

When meat is cooked or grilled, carcinogens can form on the surface. And processed meats like sausage or pepperoni usually contain nitrosamines, another known carcinogen. So consuming less of these kinds of products is linked to lower rates of cancer.

What do you think? Do you try to limit the amount of red and processed meats in your diet? If you do, is it for health or other reasons? What other protein sources do you incorporate into your diet (fish, poultry, beans, etc.)?


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Comments

  • 261
    I highly recommend watching Forks Over Knives (you can get it on Netflix). I have chosen to eat vegetarian most of the time (@95%), and I am surprised at how quickly I have adjusted- meat just doesn't appeal to me any more, and my labs from my last dr. visit were pristine. It's actually been fun to learn how to make vegetarian dishes that are healthy (not all are) and delicious. I'm in this for the long haul. - 7/25/2012   6:33:57 PM
  • 260
    See, it is the thing about lumping red meat eaters in with people who eat processed meat that bothers me. I eat beef...organic beef, grass fed and yummy. No ground beef. I eat bison, also organic. I absolutely do not eat processed meats with added salt, nitrates, etc. If I eat bacon, it is organic, nitrate-free, and uncured. If I eat a sausage, it is local, ground fresh daily from known cuts of meat, like sirloin (not scraps).

    This is all just my way of thinking from the bits of info I have gathered. I have perfect cholesterol. My husband has perfect cholesterol. I avoid processed commercial cheese. If I have any cheese, it is usually low sodium semi soft and local.

    I eat meat, I just eat the "cleanest" meat I can find. - 2/16/2012   2:21:14 PM
  • 259
    If the author is going to report on a study, she should read the study and not the New York Times review of said study. I could only find a synopsis of the study at the web site:
    archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/conten
    t/abstract/169/6/562?maxtoshow=&HIT
    S=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1
    =sinha&andorexacttitle=and&andorexa
    cttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=a
    nd&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec
    =relevance&fdate=3/1/2009&resourcet
    ype=HWCIT - 2/15/2012   11:24:12 AM
  • 258
    I don' t eat a lot of red meat. - 11/6/2011   10:18:25 PM
  • 257
    I no longer eat red meat that is not local after seeing the documentary Food Inc. I also limit myself to red meat once a week. - 10/3/2011   4:59:36 PM
  • LIZMOODYMOM
    256
    I think this study is flawed. There is a big difference between 'corn fed' red meat and 'grass fed' red meat. Grassfed red meat is full of omega-3 fatty acids (like fish) and is very lean (like chicken). Grassfed is how nature intended and they are healthy and good for you. Before you give up on red meat, try grassfed. Your body will thank you! - 7/4/2011   6:41:15 PM
  • 255
    Eat the red meat. Skip the processed meat.

    - 5/13/2011   11:48:02 AM
  • 254
    It is very unhealthy for the animals we eat - 3/7/2011   11:28:09 PM
  • 253
    Not a big red meat eater, but why is red meat lumped in with processed meats? these a two entirely different products. Ive read several compelling articles stating that grass fed beef is not unhealthy like it has been portrayed ,but the current way commercial beef is raised is the problem.. - 1/15/2011   1:01:26 PM
  • 252
    It's certainly bad for the cows. - 1/6/2011   11:27:54 AM
  • 251
    As a cattle rancher and proud of it, I would encourage all Sparkers to read legitimate articles on eating beef. While I agree we are all free to make our own food choices and those choices should ALL be healthy ones, please don't base your opinions on biased articles. I raise "safe, natural, grass fed" beef that I have eaten regularly all of my life and suffer from NO health issues at all. Healthy eating is about healthy choices, portion sizes and exercising. Eating some red meat fits into that concept. For further info on "healthy" beef eating go to
    www.beefitswhatfordinner.com
    you will find recipes, cooking tips and lots of information on beef and health

    Have a great 2011 Spark Members - 1/4/2011   11:13:01 AM
  • GBHOTMAMMA
    250
    95% of my red meat is venison (elk or deer) It is soo healthy, no chemicals or hormones or poor living conditions shown on Food INC! Fully free range, grass fed organic. It is also as lean or sometimes more lean than chicken or turkey! - 12/7/2010   1:24:07 AM
  • 249
    I think moderation is the key. I stick mostly to grass fed beef and bison for my red meat, but have the occasional steak, trimming away the visible fat. Processed and or charcoaled meats are problematic--so I mostly avoid them. I eat a wide variety, including chicken (both dark and light parts), fish, beans and other protein replacements, eggs (farm fresh) and cheese with no rgbh. Most of these foods are available at Walmart Supercenters or local farmer's markets. I do use a health food store for some things, just limit amounts and stick to cheaper cuts. I have studied these issues in depth and believe the path I have chosen is the best available for me. Others should make decisions for themselves but should make sure they are making the best informed decisions possible. - 7/21/2010   10:07:17 AM
  • 248
    We only eat red meat on occasion, maybe twice a month. My husband doesn't even want a steak unless you can cut it with a fork and it practically melts in the mouth! Did anyone see Food, Inc.? Nuff said! - 7/19/2010   5:13:03 PM
  • BEC_232
    247
    It's been over 7 weeks since I've had red meat! I've always loved it and I use to have it 3-6 times a week but I actually don't miss it anymore. I did a colon cleanse for 2 weeks that's why I gave it up and I've noticed a huge change in my digestion so I'm going to stay red meat free for as long as I can. - 6/1/2010   3:46:10 PM
  • 246
    I know hot dogs are bad, but has anyone seen the recent additions of Oscar Mayer Premium Smoked Uncured Franks in their grocer's meat case? There are several varieties (even turkey ones) and they have no nitrates or nitrites added. I don't personally eat hot dogs but my hubby does and I have been buying these for him as a healthier alternative. Together we eat a lot of fish and the occasional buffalo burger. I would be thrilled to see goat offered at my local market. - 5/24/2010   2:33:30 PM
  • 245
    I used to eat quite a bit of red meat but now I rarely eat any, both for health and compassion reasons. - 5/24/2010   8:11:08 AM
  • ND774748
    244
    I recently started eating seafood instead of meat-beef, lamb, goat, chicken and turkey, and I've noticed my blood pressure has dropped firmly into the normal for the first time in two years. As a former red meat junkie, I was surprised and disappointed that my doctor hadn't told me this one change could make such a difference. I am also grateful that what started as a whim is now a lifestyle with clear fringe benefits. - 5/24/2010   7:33:28 AM
  • 243
    Needless to say, I think over-consumption of any type of meat is unhealthy. I don't eat red meat because I dislike the taste...
    I prefer lean meats of poultry and seafood. - 5/20/2010   11:57:20 PM
  • 242
    As far as I'm concerned, the study is inherently flawed. Red meat and processed meat are two different things. Everyone knows processed meat is bad news. The only reason to include it in the study was to make darned sure they would get the results they wanted.

    You'll notice there was no processed white meat in the study. Yet they're quick to blame steak and hamburger. How about a level playing field next time? - 5/20/2010   1:13:37 PM
  • 241
    I like to eat red meat maybe once a week. What I am more concerned about is limiting the number of processed meats I eat. I never eat sausage, hot dogs or deli meats anymore (regardless of being red meat or not). When I was 6 years, I started experiencing migraines whenever I ate sausage. Now I have the problem with most processed meats so I just stay away from them! Although not everyone may experience migraines, I would encourage others to consider how non-natural chemicals in our food can impact our bodies unknowingly... - 5/15/2010   5:04:36 PM
  • 240
    Moderation, moderation, moderation.

    3 oz of meat (red, white, fish) is a sufficient serving for a meal. Stick mostly to free-range / organic / grass fed / non-or-minimally-processed for best results.

    Humans evolved as omnivores, so some moderate amount of meat is generally healthy for us. That being said, the average American diet seems to be both excessively meat-heavy and vegetable-poor. - 4/29/2010   5:19:07 AM
  • 239
    I firmly believe i have incisors and molars to eat meat. That said most meat today is filled with chemicals. Buying at the health food markets is way out of reach for some of us. I believe regulations on handling meat and processing meat are poor at best. Why use growth hormones. Animals are vaccinated, fed antibiotics and who knows on what they are fed. Then the processors get in on the act MSG, to tenderise and enhance flavours. Preservatives to give longer shelf life. Lots of Salt to standardise the flavour.
    Hotdog list of ingredients are longer than the hot dogs. Most deli meats are highly processed. Why single out red meat. I am sure if we took out more of the additives and went back to natural we would all be better off nutritionally. Chickens are injected with broth and turkeys also. Just because it is white meat does not mean it is chemical free. Chemicals are often the culprits that affect our lives. Cigarette smoke, vaccinations, perfumes and the chemicals put on and in to their bodies. How many chemicals under the name of medications do many people take. The same situation applies to the animals and then we eat that meat. I would become a vegetarian, problem is its the same chemical world at the agricultural level also. Pesticides. herbicides,insecticides I really do not understand why red meat is always the culprit. I think the problem is the excess. Steaks come in 8-12 and 16ounces and are totally consumed fat and all. Chicken and fish servings are way smaller.4-6-8onces. That also makes a big difference.
    Stay happy, enjoy all you can. Its an ever changing World we live in these days. - 4/27/2010   7:36:38 PM
  • 238
    I try to eat beef in moderation, but if I don't have it at least 1x/week, I crave it to no end....then I want to eat too much of it. If I have some every now and then, I can control my cravings. Also, I do get tired of eating chicken all the time....in fact, on a diet I was on numerous years ago, that's about all I was eating (meat wise) and my husband kept teasing me that he expected to wake up any morning and see an egg in the bed.

    I cannot/will not give up red meat totally (unless my MD tells me otherwise), but I have limited it. As many others have posted, all things in moderation. - 4/27/2010   6:48:42 PM
  • 237
    Wow. I am glad I don't eat red meat. I was a vegitarian years ago and I eat poultry and seafood now. I use turkey or chicken products for in place of beef and pork products. There is a huge variety available now, as opposed to years ago so it works out great. - 4/27/2010   10:51:04 AM
  • 1JBLESSED54
    236
    My husband and I both have been diagnosed with high cholesterol. I have really cut my cholesterol intake way down, however, my honey is addicted to hamburgers. I am going to give him this article for breakfast., - 4/22/2010   12:36:35 AM
  • 235
    The problem in my opinion is not the consumption of red meat, it is the overconsumption of red meat. When red meat is consumed it is generally the cheapest available that is prepared the worst way possible. The best red meat to consume is bison. It is actually a very lean meat. Even so it is still a good idea to limit the consumption of red meat as too much iron can be a problem as well.

    The protein sources I have other than meat of any kind is natural peanut butter, edamame soybeans, whole wheat toast, milk, etc.
    - 4/18/2010   10:49:03 AM
  • ROSALACEY2
    234
    Wow, 20 to 40 percent increase in mortality...that's powerful evidence that we need to limit the red meat in our diets. Although I used to love a hamburger or steak once in a while, I gradually came to realize that red meat makes me feel lethargic and seems to lay heavy on my digestive system. I feel much better when I don't eat it often, and don't feel like I need it at all. - 4/17/2010   2:32:54 PM
  • 233
    My understanding is that grass-fed is better than grain fed. You can expect leaner meat, higher in Vitamin E, lower your risk of E. coli, increase your Omega-3 fatty acid intake, and it has a better balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats. I wouldn't eat it for every meal though -- need to balance nutrition! - 4/16/2010   3:46:31 PM
  • NORAHMAE
    232
    Yes grain fed beef is the best. We enjoy meat once or twice per week -poultry and fish more often. Homemade soups with lentil.beans and lots of vegies- we avoid canned soups now as they contain too much sodium-maintaining our weight for several years now. - 4/15/2010   9:22:20 PM
  • 231
    such good information! - 4/14/2010   10:36:45 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    230
    How do we know how these "studies" were done, really? Questionaires? What about all the junk people eat with red meat, like sour cream, cheese, gravy, greasy fries, heavy laden veggies on the same plate? And people lie on questionaires, or when asked stuff over the phone, just figure out teenage boys when asked how many girl friends they actually have. Why keep reporting all these so called "studies", plus we never really know who paid for the study, in actual fact either. - 4/14/2010   9:42:31 PM
  • 229
    My husband is the big red meat fan. I have always craved chicken and fish. I have added boneless pork loin into our family menus. Plus after reading up enough on all the different articles, blogs, an comments from the site I am on board with adding different types of beans to our repetoire. Now occasionally I will have a small piece of steak or hamburger. My son, has discovered a LOVE of cheese burgers so that's usually in the meal plans a few times a month. After being on SparkPeople one weekend I did try to have some sausage with my family and the end result was stomache queasiness and not a "happy camper", so I've learned not to even consider adding that in to my lifestyle. Having sausage isn't one of our main staples so I do let the guys have it occasionally. Just about everything here (95%) gets baked, grilled, crockpot-slow cooked, or pan fried with a spray of PAM. Every now in then we "splurge" and will make something fried, but I do my best to limit that for family meals. Plus I have made sure we get 93% lean ground beef or chuck. My son, has become a big fan of 93% ground turkey with his mom. Now even my husband is starting to enjoy it especially when I make a veggie loaded turkey chili with some. - 4/14/2010   9:04:38 PM
  • NJ_HOU
    228
    I eat red meat and have no qualms. Of course most of the meat and other items I eat are organic or 'natural.' After having worked on a farm as a kid and then in high school on an egg farm one summer, I am completely pro only organic seeing the junk they feed those animals and also the pesticides etc sprayed on vegetation we eat as well - 4/14/2010   8:17:19 PM
  • 227
    I try to limit red meat to 2 times a week more for heart health than anything else. My Grandmother, father, and 4 of my 6 uncles have had bypass surgery. I've already beat cancer, I'm going to do all that I can to not have to go through bypass. - 2/18/2010   10:10:00 AM
  • GOLDMOM
    226
    Hard to beat a nice tenderloin steak, enjoyed in moderation of course. It can't be worse than the hormone filled chicken we all often enjoy..... - 1/31/2010   12:52:39 PM
  • CRAPWHISPERER
    225
    I am not affilliated with this site in any way, shape, or form (other than just being a happy customer), but www.GrassLandBeef.com offers $7 flat-rate overnight Fed Ex shipping, and is less than half the price of grass-fed beef at Whole Foods (which is jokingly referred to by staff at my local Trader Joe's as 'Whole Paycheck') (lol)

    The best part is, they sell organic grass-fed bison in addition to poultry, pork and even sustainable shrimp. - 1/27/2010   9:44:05 AM
  • EWEFIRST
    224
    After many years of being vegetarians with occasional fish meals, we have added meats back into our diet. We have it only a few times a month, and pay the extra for local, sustainable meats: grass-fed beef (I have seen their farm and know the farmers), lamb (family friends), and chicken from our own back yard. We are trying to eat food with fewer miles on it, plus eating animals that are raised humanely and respectfully, eating what they are meant to eat. - 1/26/2010   10:21:10 AM
  • NJ_HOU
    223
    Please state the parameters of the research before making broad judgements as we already have ENOUGH of those from the supposed researchers. Red meat as in Bison is lower in fat than turkey and chicken plus it is grass fed. What kind of red meat and chicken did these researchers utilize? Was their research only a questionaire? Were the meats and even grains consumed organic, natural, processed, unprocessed, etc? I mean think about it. These past-generation prognosticators never noticed the diff between white rice and brown rice until people were suffering from beriberi -- SORRY FOR DIGRESSING - 1/11/2010   1:18:06 PM
  • 222
    ...why does anyone even want to eat red meat? You don't need it anymore than you need ice cream. Just give it up and be healthier for it. - 1/11/2010   6:51:44 AM
  • 221
    Did they split out the people eating processed meat and red meat at all? I'm not surprised that it was high as processed meat is disgusting making use of things that would otherwise go into waste. - but there is an equal amount of processed poultry around and I wouldn't want to eat that either. I think the study may be a bit flawed. - 11/13/2009   11:52:22 AM
  • 220
    I think this article is a bit misleading. The title talks about red meat but the study was about red meat and PROCESSED meat. I would agree that eating lots of processed meat wouldn't be healthy, but then eating processed food of any kind isn't healthy.

    The article also doesn't differentiate between cuts of meats or cooking methods. You can buy some very lean cuts of meat and I have a very hard time believing that my small ostrich steak, couscous and steamed brocoli dinner is bad for me. - 11/9/2009   7:00:58 AM
  • 219
    I love red meat. I love the flavor, the juices and all that is bad. For the sake of my heart, we had a hard break-up. - 11/9/2009   6:24:27 AM
  • TINYGIRL22
    218
    this is NOT something new.. don't we know this already? This is one of the many reasons I don't eat red meat.. my dad just had triple bypass surgery last month.. and I don't plan on heading in that same direction when I'm older.. My SO loves steak.. - 11/8/2009   9:05:50 AM
  • 217
    Since I am married, I must provide red meat at least two to three times a week. I believe that generally men want red meat because their body craves and needs it, as they have more muscle mass than women, which requires protein and iron. So, we compromise, I make lots of stews, soups, and casseroles, with the primary ingredient being beans and vegetables and just a very small amount of chicken, tuna, turkey, or salmon. Then as mentioned before, about two to three times a week we may have hamburgers (made with lean beef) or meatloaf, and rarely a 4 to 6 oz steak or pork chop. This keeps hubby satisfied, and both of us are eating healthier. - 11/8/2009   7:15:58 AM
  • AMARANTHA2
    216
    I was a vegetarian for a long time but have had problems with iron levels since birth so I eat some red meat now because the heme iron is the most absorable form. Red meat also has other benefits.

    It is good to eat all things in moderation, in my opinion. I would prefer not to eat animal food at all but feel the human is by nature an omnivore and that can include reasonable amounts of meat.

    I personally do not see poultry as being healthier per se than extremely lean beef. I think the beef has more benefits for me.

    I so dislike this idea of villifying people's food choices in popular media (such as blogs) based on the latest study to come down the pike. All sorts of other factors can contribute to conclusions drawn in studies like this (such as what other sources of food is also being eaten by the meat eaters).

    The best idea, in my humble opinion, is to eat what you want in small amounts. - 11/8/2009   3:59:36 AM
  • NANCY0504
    215
    I haven't eaten red meat in 13 yrs. - 11/6/2009   3:31:46 PM
  • 214
    I love red meat but I only eat it once every 10 days or so...and then I eat it moderately. I have read articles like this before and I decided that I could live without eating it regularly. I try to stick with chicken, turkey and fish while eating pork and red meat sparingly. I think it helps with my weight loss and health goals. - 11/1/2009   8:45:30 AM
  • LIVINGONMYTERMS
    213
    I eat red meat 1-2 times a week, I like to smoke it, or grill it. I refuse to eat fried meat unless for taco's or burritos. My husband and I went with his brother on half a cow. I must say it is leaner, more tender and taste alot better. - 10/28/2009   12:41:01 AM
  • HOTMICHY
    212
    I love red meat so I have tried to limit it to 2 times a week. I eat more fish and chicken now then ever before and find them boring at times. Really how many salads with grilled chicken can a person eat. What I need is some new recipes that take no time as I work shiftwork and I don't want to spend my precious little time in the kitchen...any suggestions. - 10/26/2009   10:26:23 PM

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