Does Red Meat Really Increase Risk of Heart Disease? Interview with:

Wayne W. Campbell PhD Center on Aging and the Life Course Purdue University

Dr. Wayne Campbell

Wayne W. Campbell PhD
Center on Aging and the Life Course
Purdue University What is the background for this study?

Response: Organizations that promote healthy eating often recommend consuming no more than 3.5-4.5 2-3 ounce servings of red meat per week. This recommendation is mainly based on data from epidemiological studies that observe a cohort of peoples’ eating habits over time and relate those habits to whether or not they experience a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, or cardiovascular-related death.

These studies show associations between dietary choices and health but are unable to determine if a dietary choice is actually causing the disease. Randomized controlled clinical trials are able to determine causality by isolating one dietary variable to see the effects of that variable on certain health risk factors. Therefore, our lab compiled data from randomized controlled trials assessing the consumption of ≤ vs >3.5 servings of total red meat per week on blood lipids and lipoproteins and blood pressures, since these are common measures taken by clinicians to determine the risk for developing cardiovascular disease. What are the main findings?

Response: Based on epidemiological findings suggesting a negative effect of consuming >3.5 servings of red meat per week on cardiovascular disease end points, we hypothesized that consuming >3.5 servings per week of red meat would negatively affect blood lipids and lipoproteins, such as total, low-density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterols and blood pressures. However, our results support that red meat consumption >3.5 servings per week, of mainly unprocessed beef and pork, does not negatively affect these cardiovascular disease risk factors. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our results support that red meat can be incorporated into a person’s diet without negative consequences to blood lipids and lipoproteins and blood pressures. Our results, however, do not support that red meat consumption will decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease (although at the highest red meat intake level there was a positive influence on improving HDL levels) but our findings are consistent with dietary guidance encouraging the consumption of a variety of protein-rich foods as part of a healthy diet. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We analyzed only a subset of cardiovascular disease risk factors; others that need to be systematically reviewed would be markers of chronic inflammation and insulin-mediated glucose control because type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Our research group is currently in the process of conducting a follow-up systematic review and meta-analysis on these parameters. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):57-69. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.142521. Epub 2016 Nov 23.
Total red meat intake of ≥0.5 servings/d does not negatively influence cardiovascular disease risk factors: a systemically searched meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
O’Connor LE1, Kim JE1, Campbell WW2.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.
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