Eating red meat to excess appears not to raise heart attack risk

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than half of all deaths across the European Region. ©iStock
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than half of all deaths across the European Region. ©iStock

Related tags Red meat Nutrition Cholesterol Atherosclerosis

Exceeding recommended levels of red meat does not seem to make a difference to blood pressure and blood cholesterol - at least in the short-term, a review has concluded.

The research findings, which included all types of red meat although mostly unprocessed beef and pork, goes against the general consensus that consuming red meat to excess is detrimental to cardiovascular health.   

However, red meat as the cause of cardiovascular disease has not been firmly established according to the research team, who argued that there was limited work that investigated the effects of red meat consumption on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.

Study essentials

Purdue University researchers included data from 24 randomised controlled trials.

Steak meat fat
The research findings included all types of red meat, mainly unprocessed beef and pork. ©iStock

Subjects that were aged below 19 years and consumed more than half a serving per day of red meat, (equivalent to an 85 gram (3 ounce) serving three times per week) were included amongst other selection criteria.

Statistical analysis was performed on CVD risk factors, which included blood total cholesterol (TC), LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, ratio of TC to HDL cholesterol and systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Results supported the idea that the consumption of more than half a serving of total red meat per day did not influence blood lipids and lipoproteins or blood pressures.

“During the last 20 years, there have been recommendations to eat less red meat as part of a healthier diet, but our research supports that red meat can be incorporated into a healthier diet,”​ said Dr Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University.

“Red meat is a nutrient-rich food, not only as a source for protein but also bioavailable iron.”

Study limitations

Dr Campbell acknowledged that more analysis was needed as the length of time it took for people to develop cardiovascular disease took years or decades. The review primarily looked at trials, which lasted just a few weeks to a few months.

The review comes hot on the heels of a study​ that stated high intakes of cured and processed meat could worsen asthma symptoms over time.

Last year the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) cancer research agency IARC placed cured and processed meats on a list of cancer-causing agents.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.142521

“Total red meat intake of ≥0.5 servings/d does not negatively influence cardiovascular disease risk factors: a systemically searched meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.”

Authors: Lauren O’Connor, Jung Eun Kim and Wayne Campbell et al.

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1 comment

This research was funded by beef, pork, egg and dairy industries

Posted by sally stephenson,

I just downloaded this meta-analysis and all of the authors received research support during this meta-analysis from the meat, dairy and egg lobbies. How is this passed off as real science? What change doe the world have again this type of corruption?

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