Swap out red meat but keep the fatty fish to reduce heart risk, says study

By Nathan GRAY

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Red meat, Myocardial infarction

Switching red meat for vegetables or potatoes could significantly lower your risk of myocardial infarction, but swapping out fatty fish for veggies could increase your risk, say researchers.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition​, was set up to test how substituting red meat, poultry and fish with with vegetables or potatoes influenced the prevention of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) in a group of more than 55,000 men and women taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study.

Led by PhD candidate Anne Würtz from Aarhus University in Denmark, the team found that it made little difference whether items being switched out of the diet were replaced with vegetables or potatoes.

“This study suggests that replacing red meat with vegetables or potatoes is associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarctions (MI), whereas replacing fatty fish with vegetables or potatoes is associated with a higher risk of MI,”​ wrote the team.

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Leicester linked the consumption of red meat with anincreased risk of acute heart failure​, with the findings backing up previous studies that suggested consumption of red meat leads our gut bacteria to increase levels of a potentially dangerous metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO)​, which has been linked to heart failure and worse long-term prognosis.

Meanwhile a raft or research has linked marine-sourced long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in high levels in fatty fish​, with lower cardiovascular risks – and as such could help save the EU almost €13 billion​ in cardiovascular disease healthcare spending.

Study details

Würtz and colleagues investigated substitutions of red meat, poultry and fish in a population of 29,142 women and 26,029 men in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. All women and men were aged between 50 and 64 years with no known history of MI at baseline.

“Diet was assessed by a validated 192-item FFQ at baseline,”​ said the team – noting that adjusted Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and

95 % CI for MI associated with specified food substitutions of 150 g/week.

During the average follow-up of 13·6 years, the team identified 656 female and 1,694 male cases of myocardial infarction.

“Among women, the HR for MI when replacing red meat with vegetables was 0·94,”​ they said. “Replacing fatty fish with vegetables was associated with a higher risk of MI (HR 1·23).”

Furthermore, an inverse, but statistically non-significant association was found for lean fish, they said.

“Substituting poultry with vegetables was not associated with risk of MI.”

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Volume 116, Issue 9 November 2016, pp. 1602-1610, doi: 10.1017/S0007114516003500
“Substitution of meat and fish with vegetables or potatoes and risk of myocardial infarction”
Authors: Anne M. L. Würtz, et al

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