- Regular red meat consumption may lead to a shorter lifespan according to a recent study, with a particular link to processed red meat variants.
- Consumption of red meat has been found to coexist with unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol consumption. However, it was notable that even among those with similar unhealthy habits, those deriving protein from red meat had higher mortality rates.
- Incorporating more plant-based protein into the daily diet showed substantial benefits including a decrease in the risk of overall mortality and heart-related death risk, and a decline in premature death risk.
- Health experts recommend healthier alternatives to red meat such as fish, chicken, or plant-based proteins, due to their fiber, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids content.
- Even within animal protein sources, making healthier choices by preferring lean meat cuts, using only egg whites, or selecting skim milk could help to minimize risks.
A recent study has indicated that regular consumption of red meat as a primary protein source could lead to a shorter lifespan. Individuals who intake protein principally from plant derivatives have a lower risk of premature death in comparison to those who consume large amounts of animal-based proteins.
The Different Risk Levels of Animal Proteins
Not all types of animal proteins present the same level of danger according to Dr. Mingyang Song, the head investigator of the study. There is a documented strong link between higher mortality and protein obtained from red meat, particularly processed variants. On the other hand, proteins derived from fish or poultry showed no significant correlations with mortality.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices Linked to Red Meat Consumption
Noteworthy is the fact that a high consumption of red meat tended to coincide with unhealthy lifestyle traits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, even among individuals with similar unhealthy lifestyles, it was clear that protein derived from red meat, especially processed products, was linked to higher mortality rates.
Benefits of Plant Protein in the Daily Diet
Results from this study make a compelling case for including more plant protein in regular nutrition:
- Every 3 percent increase in daily plant protein intake corresponded to a 10 percent decrease in the risk of overall mortality and a 12 percent decrease in heart-related death risk.
- Each 10 percent increase in total daily calories from animal protein co-related with a 2 percent increase in overall death risk and an 8 percent increase in heart-disease-related death risk.
- Swapping animal protein with plant protein in daily consumption resulted in lowering overall premature death risk.
- Processed red meat reduction by 34 percent, 12 percent reduction in unprocessed red meat, and fewer eggs by 19 percent resulted in a decline in premature death risk.
Healthier Alternatives to Red Meat
Jim White, a registered dietitian and health fitness instructor, was not surprised with these findings. According to him, red meat, particularly its processed versions, is laden with sodium and nitrates, which are associated with heart disease and cancer. On the other hand, plant proteins are packed with fiber, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of completely eliminating red meat, he recommends opting for healthier alternatives like fish, chicken, or plant-based proteins.
Healthier Choices within Animal Protein
White suggests some could minimize risks from animal protein sources by making healthier choices including using only egg whites, preferring leanest meat cuts, or selecting skim milk.
Source of the Study and Its Participants
The research was conducted using data from two extensive U.S. studies involving more than 131,000 subjects who were regularly tracked on their dietary habits over three decades. Interestingly, these studies found the increased risk of death linked to red meat consumption only occurred in those with other unhealthy lifestyle traits. This correlation dissipated in those who maintained a healthy lifestyle.
Furthermore, it was found that health-conscious individuals generally chose healthier animal protein sources. Unhealthy groups tended to consume more protein from red meat and high-fat dairy, while the healthy participants primarily consumed animal protein from fish or chicken.
Comparing Other Protein Sources
Comparatively, eggs and dairy products scored better than processed or red meats but were outperformed by chicken or fish. While they can serve as a reasonable source of protein, fish and poultry are better alternatives. These findings offer a new insight into the balance of our diets and the impact our protein sources have on our overall health.
The findings of this study were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
For more information on leading a healthy lifestyle, feel free to visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s resource website: