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Red Meat Consumption Associated with Significantly Shorter Lifespan

By Michael Greger M.D.
April 16, 2012
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Meat

The results of two major Harvard studies, which followed the diets of more than 100,000 men and women, for up to 22 years were published March 12, 2012.

The researchers found that red meat consumption was associated with living a significantly shorter life – increased cancer mortality, increased heart disease mortality and increased overall mortality.

These studies were featured in this video-of-the-day Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies.

A press release sent out immediately by The American Meat Institute stated, “A new study in today’s Archives of Internal Medicine tries to predict the future risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease by relying on notoriously unreliable self-reporting about what was eaten and obtuse methods to apply statistical analysis to the data.”

Alas, yes, the Harvard researchers were not telepathic and did indeed have to ask people what they were eating. The Meat Institute criticized the esteemed researchers for using “survey data – not test tubes, microscopes or lab measurements….” No beakers either, I bet! 

No sizzling electric arcs, or panels with pretty flashing lights… No, just cutting edge epidemiological science, however “obtuse” this may be to the American Meat Institute.

The Meat Institute asserted, “nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies….”

If two prospective cohort studies, which are the gold standard of observational studies, following more than 100,000 people for two decades published by one of the most prestigious institutions in the world isn’t good enough for the Meat Institute, how about the largest such study ever?

The NIH-AARP study, “Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People.” What does the largest forward-looking study on diet and disease in human history have to say on the subject?  Watch Meat & Mortality for a distinct sense of déjà vu.

I think the most interesting finding in the new Harvard studies is that even after factoring out known contributors of disease, such as saturated fat and cholesterol, they still found increased mortality risk, raising the question: what exactly is in the meat that is so significantly increasing cancer death rates, heart disease, and shortening people’s lives?

A few possibilities include heme ironnitrosamines, biogenic amines, advanced glycation end products, arachidonic acid, steroids, toxic metals, drug residues, viruses, heterocyclic amines, PCBs, dioxins, and other industrial pollutants.

Michael Greger, M.D., an author and internationally recognized speaker on healthy eating, has produced hundreds of nutrition videos available at Follow Dr. Greger on Twitter

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