Eating meat (except poultry) increases the risk of death

A new analysis reinforces the already existing precaution against excessive consumption of red and processed meat.

The health dangers of eating meat, especially processed meat, is not a new topic in literature. In October 2019 a comprehensive review of studies came to light which concluded that red meat might not be as damaging an on our health as we thought. Before that, however, numerous studies had shown that high consumption of red and processed meat increased the risk of cancer, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Now, a recently published study reinforces caution against excessive meat consumption in general (except for poultry).

The scientific publication is an analysis published in the magazine JAMA Internal Medicine, produced by two institutions: Northwestern Medicine and Cornell University; and which links red meat consumption and processing with a slightly higher risk of heart disease and death. The study specifies that eating red, processed, or poultry meat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease; and eating meat, except poultry, increases the risk of death in general, from multiple causes.

More specifically, the publication concludes that:

Eating two servings of red meat per week, processed meat or poultry, but not fish, was associated with a three to seven percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating two servings of red meat or processed meat per week, but not poultry or fish, was associated with a three percent higher risk of multiple causes of death.

In the words of the lead author of the study, Norrina Allen: "It is a small difference, but it is worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat such as bologna or sausages. The consumption of red meat is also constantly linked to other health problems, such as cancer".

Therefore, modifying the intake of these animal protein foods can be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death in the general population.

In contrast to the October study to which we referred, which relativizes the worry about meat consumption, the researchers reaffirm their conclusions: "Our study demonstrates that the link with cardiovascular disease and mortality was solid".

So what should we eat?

The Professor of Preventive Medicine and member of the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee makes the following recommendations: Fish, shellfish and vegetable protein sources, such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat.

Poultry meat, not as bad

The study excluded poultry meat in the overall increased risk of death; in fact, it found a positive association between poultry intake and cardiovascular disease. However, the researchers do not form hasty conclusions about this, as there is not enough evidence, for now, to recommend the consumption of this type of meat.

Researchers indicate, however, that this relationship may be related to the method of cooking chicken and the consumption of skin rather than chicken meat itself.

On the other hand, no relationship was found between eating fish and cardiovascular disease or mortality.


This analysis gathered a large diverse sample of six cohorts, with long follow-up data, of up to three decades. 

It included 29,682 participants with an average age of 53.7 years at the beginning of the study, 44.4% men and the rest women.


As for the limitations of the study, it is summarized in that the dietary intake of the participants was evaluated only once, and dietary behaviors could have changed over time.

Furthermore, cooking methods were not considered. It should be noted that fried chicken, especially with a lot of fat (which provides trans fats), as well as the consumption of fried fish, has been associated with chronic cardiovascular diseases.

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