1/2 Serving of Red Meat Daily Can Increase Risk of Early Death By 10%, According to Harvard Researchers

1/2 Serving of Red Meat Daily Can Increase Risk of Early Death By 10%, According to Harvard Researchers

According to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and others, red meat has been linked to early death in a study of over 80,000 people. 


The study examined 53,553 US registered female nurses aged 30 to 55 and 27,916 US male health professionals, aged 40 to 75. All participants were cancer and cardiovascular disease free at the start of the study in 1984, which lasted until 2010. All participants provided information regarding medical history, lifestyle, and diet in 1984 and every four years until 2010. 


The US provides an excellent demographic for the study considering red meat intake is nearly twice the global average. 


The study with 14,019 deaths resulted in finding:

  • Increases in red meat intake over an eight year period is associated with a higher mortality risk
  • Half a serving of red meat daily is associated with a 10% higher mortality risk
    • Processed red meat was 13% (bacon, sausage, salami, etc.)
  • These were consistent among subgroups defined by age, exercise levels, dietary quality, smoking status, and alcohol consumption

According to Frank Hu, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "We estimated that when people replaced red and processed meat with nuts, seeds, fish [and other plant-based proteins], they experienced more than a 10 percent reduction in their risk of mortality". 


This study is interesting because it examines people’s behaviors and the effects on their behavior on their health (due to diet) - whether this means eating more consciously or completely disregarding it. 


As this is an observational study, it only proves the association, not cause and effect. However, one primary thing to flag and keep in mind is the major negative effect of processed and red meat on the body.