“Heavy” consumers of red and processed meats have an increased risk of premature mortality, compared to those who prefer white meats.
The data concerning meat consumption and its impact on mortality differ according to the studies. Very often, the work carried out does not take into account the type of meat (red, white, processed). To avoid this bias, a cohort was followed for 16 years, including half a million people aged 50 to 71 at the start of the study. These are the results of this research that were exposed in the latest British Medical Journal.
Red meat: increased risk of premature death
For the same quantity of meat consumed, those who prefer red meat (beef, lamb and pork) are exposed to a risk of premature death that is more than 25% higher than those who consume less. The consumption of processed or unprocessed red meat is thus associated with an increase in deaths following:
– cardiac and respiratory pathologies,
– Type 2 diabetes,
– kidney or liver disease.
Conversely, white meats (poultry and fish) have a protective effect on mortality, especially if they are unprocessed.
Red meat generates more oxidative stress
It is the presence of heme iron in red meat that seems to explain this excess mortality, and even more that of nitrates and nitrites present in processed meats. Oxidative stress could be the common underlying mechanism explaining these different results. Indeed, responsible for aging, it is associated with an increased risk of mortality caused by chronic diseases. In addition, it is linked to numerous components of the metabolic syndrome, including insulin resistance. However, heme iron as well as nitrates and nitrites are pro-oxidants that can cause cell damage and inflammation in different organs.
Etemadi A. Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort studyBritish Medical Journal, 9 May 2017;357:j1957