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  • Writer's pictureDerrick W. Spell, MD FACP

The Beef with Beef!

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

A study published on June 12, 2019, in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2019; 365: l2110) confirms what many doctors have believed for some time: eating red meat is bad for your health! Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These two large studies included over 80,000 previously healthy men and women. Several different diet and lifestyle factors were measured regularly for over two decades. The researchers concluded that an increase of red meat consumption was associated with an increased risk of premature death. Specifically, they determined that individuals who increased red meat consumption by just one-half serving each day had a 10% higher risk of early death. The risk of premature death went up to 13% if the consumed meats were processed. Common examples of processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats.

Previous studies have indicated that diets high in red meat are linked with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This always made sense to me since red meats are high in calories, saturated fats and cancer-causing compounds. There is corresponding evidence that cultures in our world that eat fewer red meats have greater lifespans. Examples of these cultures include Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), and Icaria (Greece). With the Harvard analysis, we now have additional proof that eating more red meat can shorten your life!

The average American today eats over 200 pounds of meat each year. That is more than one-half pound of meat each day! How has this happened? Over the past few generations, meat has become the centerpiece of the standard American meal. This is especially true in fast-food restaurants. Even the average serving size of meat has increased over the past few decades. In addition, meat has mistakenly become synonymous with protein, as though meat is the only way to consume protein. Thankfully, there are many sources of protein that are good for your health. Some of these protein options are easy to incorporate into anyone’s diet routine. We will learn about these protein sources, as well as other ways to minimize meats from your life, in an upcoming discussion.

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