Only Processed Red Meat Linked to Shorter Survival

Andrea Bellavia From the Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology and the Unit of Biostatistics Institute of Environmental Medicine Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Andrea Bellavia
From the Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology and the Unit of Biostatistics
Institute of Environmental Medicine
Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Bellavia: By evaluating together the consumption of processed and fresh red meat, we observed that processed red meat consumption was associated with shorter life, implying a potential negative effect on health. On the other hand, consumption of only fresh red meat was not associated with either shorter or longer survival. Therefore, the main finding of this work is that the negative effects of red meat consumption might only be due to meat processing, which counteract the positive effects of the beneficial nutrients of meat.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Bellavia: No, because red meat is a source of important nutrients such as zinc and dietary protein. On the other hand, processing red meat involves different potentially adverse components.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Bellavia: Consumption of red meat that involves processing components (such as sausages or hot dogs) should be at least limited. On the other hand, fresh meat (minced pork, beef, veal) does not share the same negative properties, and healthy people who regularly consume fresh red meat should not be recommended to stop. In the same way, given the null association between fresh meat and survival, people who do not consume meat should not be recommended to start.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Bellavia: We only evaluated the overall mortality of the population, finding that consumption of fresh red meat alone is not associated with shorter survival. It will be important to understand if the same result applies by looking at specific diseases, to understand if there are particular health scenarios in which red meat should be fully avoided.

Citation:

Differences in survival associated with processed and with nonprocessed red meat consumption

Andrea Bellavia, Susanna C Larsson, Matteo Bottai, Alicja Wolk, and Nicola Orsini
Am J Clin Nutr 2014 ajcn.086249; First published online July 16, 2014. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.086249