Red and Processed Meat Linked to Worse Heart Function and Stiffer Blood Vessels Interview with:

Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, PhD fellow Cardiologist Trainee at Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust

Dr. Raisi-Estabra

Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, PhD fellow
Cardiologist Trainee at Queen Mary University of London and
Barts Health NHS Trust What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous studies have linked greater consumption of red and processed meat to poorer clinical cardiovascular outcomes, for example, higher risk of having a heart attack or of dying from heart disease. However, the biological mechanisms underlying these relationships are not well understood. Furthermore, the impact of meat intake on more direct measures of heart health, such as, structure and function of the heart and blood vessels, has not been previously studied in large cohorts. Examining how meat intake may influence different aspects of cardiovascular health can help us better understand its health effects. What are the main findings? 

Response: In this study, we made use of the UK Biobank resource to examine the links between meat intake and measures of heart health obtained from detailed heart MRI scans. We considered three different types of measurements, each relating to a different aspect of cardiovascular health. Firstly, measures of the structure and function of the main pumping chambers of the heart (the right and left ventricles). Secondly, measures of the shape and texture of the heart muscle obtained using a new technique called radiomics. And thirdly, a measure of the stretchiness of the aorta, the main artery that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body, (stretchy arteries are healthier). For comparison, we also looked at these same relationships with oily fish intake, a dietary exposure previously linked with better heart health.

Our results, in almost 20,000 people, indicate that higher intake of red meat is linked to poorer heart health across all the parameters studied. In particular, higher red and processed meat intake was linked to an unhealthy structure of the pumping chambers of the heart, poorer function of the heart chambers, and stiffer (less stretchy) arteries. In contrast, higher intake of oily fish was linked to better heart health, with healthier structure and function of the heart chambers and better vascular health (stretchier aorta). The radiomics analysis showed that higher intake of meat and fish were linked to different texture of the heart muscle suggesting that the different dietary habits lead to different changes in the heart muscle. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings support prior observations linking red and processed meat consumption with heart disease and provide unique insights into links with heart and vascular structure and function. Although we cannot infer causation from our observational study, in general, it seems sensible to limit intake of red and processed meat for heart health reasons. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response:  Some researchers have suggested that the links between red and processed meat intake and poorer heart health are related to higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity in people who tend to eat more meat. In our study, we tested the influence of these factors on the various measures of heart health. We found that although these factors were of some importance, they did not provide a full explanation. Therefore, more research is needed to understand alternative disease mechanisms, e.g., the influence of the gut microbiome, in mediating these observed relationships.

The work was led by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with the University of Barcelona and the MRC lifecourse epidemiology unit (Southampton, UK). The lead author (Zahra Raisi-Estabragh) is funded by the British Heart Foundation. The University of Barcelona receives funding from euCanSHare (EU Horizon 2020 Programme grant agreement No 825903).

Citation: Abstract presented at MEETING

ESC Preventive 2021

Higher consumption of red and processed meat is associated with adverse cardiovascular magnetic resonance morpho-functional phenotypes: A study of 19,408 UK Biobank participant


The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.


Last Updated on April 15, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD