Are you planning to mark your 40th birthday before cutting out red meat from your diet? Then this might interest you. Recent research findings have shown that the chances of hitting that age is slimmer for people who indulge in processed and unprocessed meat. To reduce the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease, they say, diets rich in beef, hotdogs, sausage, steaks and bacon have to take the back seat.
The advice might sound like bad news, but the Harvard University-based scientists are pointing to a new study which analysed the diets of more than 120,000 men and women in the department of nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, United States, US. The research was on for 20 years.
At the start of the study, the men were in their early 50s and the women in their mid-40s. Every four years, the participants were questioned on their eating habits and other indices like smoking, drinking, exercise and body weight. After 20 years, it was discovered that the participants who indulged most in red meat were more likely to die compared to the participants who ate very little daily ration of beef, pork and lamb.
The team of researchers found that eating a daily serving of unprocessed red meat increases the risk of heart disease by about 18 per cent and the risk of dying of cancer by 10 per cent. The final analysis was even worse for processed meat. Eating a daily serving of two slices of bacon, sausage or one piece of hot dog raised the risk of dying of heart disease by 21 per cent and of cancer by 16 per cent.
The researchers urged people to replace processed and unprocessed meat with lean proteins. These include fish, nuts, beans and chicken. The chicken skin should be removed before consumption. “Substituting almost any other food for red meat reduces the risk, sometimes, substantially. This is a call for a more varied diet that substitutes other foods for read meats, especially nuts,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition.
Dean Ornish, president, Preventive Medicine Research Institute, California, US, agrees. “I think everybody would be better off if they consumed a plant based diet. But even modest changes – substituting chicken for beef, for example, or fish for chicken – also play an important role in reducing risk,” he explained.