Red Meat: Great taste, big risk

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Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness Director
Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness Director

Red Meat: Great taste, big risk

by: Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness Director | .
The Morning Calm | .
published: June 22, 2013

Editor’s Note:
The following article on the dangers of red meat is by Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness director.
It is the latest in an occasional series of his health-and-fitness articles appearing in the Area I section of the Morning Calm weekly newspaper, with the aim of helping foster good health practices within our community.

CAMP RED CLOUD – Research from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that daily helpings of red meat – especially processed red meats like cold cuts and hot dogs – can shorten your life.

Processed meat also includes bacon, sausage, salami, and bologna. Unprocessed red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and hamburger.

If that’s the case, what are other foods you should choose to get the protein you need?

By replacing part of your meat intake with fish, poultry, nuts, beans, and other healthy sources of protein, you can substantially reduce your chance of dying prematurely.

The Harvard researchers looked for statistical links between meat consumption and cause of death.

The populations included about 84,000 women and 38,000 men. Those who ate the most red meat tended to die younger from cardiovascular disease and cancer, even after the researchers compensated for the effects of smoking, being overweight, and other unhealthy lifestyle influences.

For each additional 3-ounce serving of red meat, people had a 13% increased risk of premature death.

The impact rose to 20% if the serving was processed, as in food items like hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts.

On the plus side, the study also measured a hefty mortality dividend to cutting back on red meat.

Consuming less than half a serving (1.5 ounces) per day of red meat could have prevented about one in 10 premature deaths in men in the study.

According to Dr. Walter Willett at the Harvard School of Public Health, “If someone who has a 50% risk of dying in the next 25 years replaces one serving of red meat per day with chicken, the risk is decreased to about 42%, and to about 40% if nuts replace red meat.”

The effects of unhealthy foods are relative to where you start, and eating red meat – the study shows – comes with a mortality tax.

The study points to an even greater benefit if you substitute meat with equivalent servings of more healthful protein sources, such as fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.

What should you do here in Area I.

The prudent course would be to try to reduce red meat consumption if you haven’t already.

On an individual level the exact benefit is hard to predict, but you can bet that reducing meat consumption – particularly processed meat – is likely to score you an advantage.

Making these kinds of decisions is like being a smart gambler. Nothing is guaranteed, but this is putting the odds in your favor.

It’s a menu many people can live with – literally.

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