CHICAGO, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- A large, carefully analyzed study from Northwestern Medicine and Cornell University links red and processed meat consumption with slightly higher risk of heart disease and death.
The study included 29,682 participants with a mean age of 53.7 years at baseline, 44.4 percent men and 30.7 percent non-white. Diet data were self-reported by participants, who were asked a long list of what they ate for the previous year or month.
Eating two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry, but not fish, per week was linked to a 3 to 7 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease, the study found. Eating two servings of red meat or processed meat,- but not poultry or fish, per week was associated with a 3-percent higher risk of all causes of death.
Other findings include: there is a 4-percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease for people who ate two servings per week of poultry, although the evidence so far is not sufficient to make a clear recommendation about poultry intake. The study holds that the relationship may be related to the method of cooking the chicken and consumption of the skin rather than the chicken meat itself; and no association between eating fish and cardiovascular disease or mortality.
Limitations of the study are participants' dietary intake was assessed once, and dietary behaviors may have changed over time. In addition, cooking methods were not considered.
"It's a small difference, but it's worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats," said senior study author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University (NU) Feinberg School of Medicine. "Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer."
"Fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat and are under-consumed in the U.S.," said study coauthor Linda Van Horn, a NU professor of preventive medicine at Feinberg.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Northwestern Medicine is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which includes research, teaching and patient care.