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Researchers find even small amounts of red and processed meats could cause early death

The study suggests the risk for cardiovascular disease is particularly high

Photo (c) gilaxia - Getty Images
With many consumers looking to maintain healthy lifestyles, countless experts have explored the pros and cons of adding and eliminating certain foods from diets.

Now, a group of researchers say that consuming red or processed meats -- even in small increments -- can lead to an early death.

“A question about the effect of lower levels of intakes compared to no-meat eating remained unanswered,” said lead author Saeed Mastour Alshahrani. “We wanted to take a closer look at the association of low intakes of red and processed meat with all-cause, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer mortality compared to those who don’t eat meat at all.”

Avoiding even in moderation

To see how red meat in moderation affects the risk of death, the researchers evaluated nearly 96,000 Seventh Day Adventists -- a group that primarily doesn’t eat meat, or does so in limited quantities.

The participants were monitored over the course of an 11-year period, during which they completed questionnaires about their diets.

By the end of the study, nearly 8,000 participants had died. Because of the unique relationship the participants had with meat, many didn’t consume meat at all, but of those who did, 90 percent ate two ounces or less of red or processed meat per day.

Of the participants who died in this study, over 1,800 were cancer-related deaths, and over 2,500 were linked to cardiovascular disease.

The researchers can’t point their fingers solely at red or processed meats, though eating these foods in high quantities has been linked to an increased risk of several diseases. Moving forward, the group hopes that consumers heed these warnings and understand the risks involved.

“Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan,” said researcher Dr. Michael Orlich.

Becoming healthier

Several recent studies have found how limiting the intake of foods like red and processed meats can be the key to living a healthier life.

One study found that eating an anti-inflammatory diet could be the key to long life. Eating fruits and veggies, low-fat cheese, nuts, and whole grains, while avoiding chips, soft drinks, and red meat was linked to better overall health.

Similarly, following an eco-friendly diet -- which involves avoiding dairy, solid fats, and meat -- is beneficial to both the environment and physical health.

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