During the summer, everyone is keeping their grills busy. Burgers, steaks, pork, and other delicious barbequed foods fill back yards with that delicious aroma. But recent studies show that eating all of that red meat, although tasty, could be dangerous to your health.
In October 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified red meat as a “probable carcinogenic,” citing processed red meat as the worst offender—in the same category as cigarettes. And a 2012 study published back in March, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, determined adding a small portion of red meat to your daily diet contributes to greater health risks. It examined the diets and health of 110,000 adults over 20 years. It found that the majority of participants had at least one serving of red meat per day.
Unfortunately for steak lovers, it warns that a three-ounce steak – a piece no bigger than a deck of cards – was associated with a 13% increased chance of death. Even scarier for meat lovers, the study found that processed meat – as little as two slices of bacon everyday – was associated with a 20% increased chance of death.
Red meat has long been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Although scientists still aren’t exactly sure why red meat is so dangerous, they have narrowed it down to a few suspects. The iron and saturated fat in beef, pork, and lamb, the nitrates used to preserve the meat, and the chemicals created by the high-temperature cooking are all possible causes for the increased death risks.
But don’t worry barbeque fans; all is not lost. The study found that replacing red meat with other foods can have a beneficial impact on your health.
Changing your eating habits
Nuts are beneficial to health, decreasing mortality risks by 19%. Poultry (think chicken and turkey burgers) showed a 14% decrease in mortality, low-fat dairy products and vegetables a 10% decrease, and fish had a 7% decrease.
Carol Kaprowski, a professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, noted that studies such as this can be hard to draw concrete conclusions, because there can be error in the questioning of the participants.
While any amount of red meat contributes to a greater health risk, it does not mean you’ll die if you enjoy a little every now and then.
An Pan, lead author of the study out of the Harvard School of Public Health, says “If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week. That would have a huge impact on public health.”
Save that juicy steak for a special day. Lay off the quadruple bacon cheese burgers, and substitute your love of red meat with some tasty chicken or fish. Besides, after a long wait, that steak will taste even better.
Written by Nigel Ward. Originally published July 2012. Updated June 2016.