Intake of both processed and unprocessed red meat was associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in nine different chronic diseases, in part due to heme iron and nitrate or nitrite, according to a study published in BMJ. Researchers reviewed dietary data from 536,969 participants as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and tracked meat and iron intakes. Results showed an increased chance of death from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney disease with increased consumption of red meat and unprocessed and processed meats. Independently, heme iron (iron from animal sources) and nitrites/nitrates found in processed meats increased mortality rates as well. Researchers suspect increased sodium, oxidative stress due to heme iron and nitrate/nitrite intake, increased fat intake, and heterocyclic amines from cooked meat as possible mechanisms behind the elevated risk of death.
An accompanying commentary called for immediate revision of global policies to reduce meat consumption.
- Etemadi A, Sinha R, Ward MH, et al. Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2017;357:j1957. Potter JD. Red and processed meat, and human and planetary health: contemporary meat consumption harms human health and is equally bad for the planet. BMJ. 2017;357:j2190.