Friday, April 13, 2012
The Harvard School of Public Health in Boston has analysed the data of over 120,000 men and women tracked down for nearly 30 years. The data reveals that during the study, almost 24,000 people died. It is speculated that almost 7.6% to 9.3% of the dead people could have pushed the death away from them provided they had eaten half a helping of red meat less daily. One helping is equal to 85g that is approximately two slices of bacon. Thus, the study exhibited the remarkable association between the consumption of red meat and premature death.
According to senior author Professor Frank Hu (Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, US) said, “This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death. On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity (illness) and mortality.”
It is also found that consumption of fish meat instead of red meat reduces the mortality risk by 7%, while the consumption of poultry meat further reduces the mortality risk by 14%. In addition to this, the legumes as well as low-fat dairy products lowered the risk by 10%, the grains lowered the risk by 14% and the nuts lowered it by 19%.
The conclusions of the study are drawn after considering the known chronic disease risk factors like the body weight, physical activity, age and the family history. Entirely avoidance of processed red meat and limiting consumption of red meat to 500 gram weekly has been recommended by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). The Deputy Head of Science at WCRF said, “This study strengthens the body of evidence which shows a link between red meat and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The research itself seems solid and is based on two large-scale cohort studies monitored over a long period of time. The study calculates that lives would be saved if people replaced red meat with healthy protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts and legumes and we would like to see more people replacing red meat with these types of foods.”
However, Dr. Carrie Ruxton from Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) has challenged the findings of the study saying, “This US study looked at associations between high intakes of red meat and risk of mortality, finding a positive association between the two. However, the study was observational, not controlled, and so cannot be used to determine cause and effect. ‘The authors’ conclusion that swapping a portion of red meat for poultry or fish each week may lower mortality risk was based only on a theoretical model. This conflicts with evidence from controlled trials.”
Moreover, Dr. Ruxton emphasized that meat and products of meat are source of essential nutrients like iron, selenium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin D. It is to be noticed that consumption of red meat was important for the intake of zinc in UK for 32% men and 27% women. Also, it contributed to total dietary intake of iron by almost 17% in UK. Hence, she further added, “In summary, this paper should not be used to dissuade people from reducing their current intake of red meat when it provides essential nutrients that are required as part of a healthy balanced diet.”