Should we all be cutting back on red meat?

Evidence is accumulating that a high intake of both processed and unprocessed red meat is associated with higher mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as hepatic, renal and respiratory disease. Although our closest primate relatives, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, are primarily vegetarian, humans have a long history of meat consumption. However, in most ancient agricultural societies meat was eaten only once per week, with an intake rarely more than 5-10kg per year. Current average meat consumption in developed and rapidly developing counties is now more than 10 times greater than that at 110-120kg per person per year, and sometimes considerably more than that.

The increased mortality risk is linked to excessive nitrate and heam iron intake, but other factors, such as the increased consumption of both saturated fat and N-nitroso compounds, as well as cooking-related carcinogens, may also play a role.

The question is whether we, and indeed all our patients, should be cutting back on red meat. What are your views? Do add your comments to this blog.

Read the editorial here

Comments (5) Add yours ↓
  1. Sandy Gujral Consultant urologist

    Life is to live not simply survive! Balance as in all situations like this is necessary!

    July 24, 2017 Reply
  2. Mike Kirby Professor

    The best reference for this is Am J Epidemiology 22/10/13 :- 29% increase in total mortality with a dose relationship.
    Try fish a bit more often & don’t burn the meat!!

    July 26, 2017 Reply
  3. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Good point Mike. There is some evidence that barbequed red meat may be less than ideal – especially if it’s burnt. Better to stick with chicken of fish on the BBQ and to cut back on processed meats such as ham and bacon as well perhaps?

    July 26, 2017 Reply
  4. Culley Carson Professor of Urology

    While the data on diet and all types of disease is constantly changing, there are basic tenants for all. As Benjamin Franklin said “everything in moderation.” While excessive red meat is a significant danger factor for cardiovascular disease , colon cancer and even ED, recent reports suggest that the complete absence of meat from a western diet also has consequences. The latest recommendations are for less processed meats, more organically raised lean meats and adequate amounts of vegetables. While those that can adhere to a vegan diet are admirable, the need for animal protein, lecithin and fats can help balance other dietary components. While fish is critical for CV health, modest amounts of quality red meat may be also necessary for a healthy diet.

    August 14, 2017 Reply
  5. Joanne McCormack DR

    As a GP who sees a mountain of health problems, it is not red meat that is the problem, but junk food and drink, which cannot really be done in moderation as it is too addictive.
    I agree with those who say to cut back, but not stop, red meat. We do not need more than 1g/kg of protein a day. Having good meat, once or twice a week 100-125g which is grass fed and ethically sourced is unlikely to be harmful, and may well prevent vitamin B12 and iron deficiency. We may aspire to being vegan but as a GP I find it is a disaster in an overweight or diabetic person if junk food is consumed. It works much better in less-developed societies than in my practice, as there is junk food available on every corner.

    September 1, 2017 Reply

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