Food for thought

Death rates higher when meats are eaten daily, study says

It’s not just bacon. A new JAOA study finds eating red and processed meats raises all-cause mortality rates.


Grilling portobello mushrooms instead of hot dogs at cookouts could be a smart swap. Researchers found all-cause mortality is higher for people who eat red or processed meats on a daily basis, according to a new clinical review in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA).

The authors analyzed six studies evaluating the effects of meat and vegetarian diets. They found all-cause mortality is higher for increased daily consumption of red meat, especially processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs and ham. However, the compiled evidence does not link other meat products to all-cause mortality.

Is meat killing us?

  • A 2014 study following more than 1 million people over the course of five and a half to 28 years looked at their consumption of processed meats and unprocessed red meats such as pork or lamb. The data found the steepest rise in mortality at the smallest increases of intake of total red meat.
  • A 2014 meta-analysis examined associations with mortality from cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease. In that study of more than 1.5 million people, researchers found only processed meat significantly increased the risk for all-cause mortality.
  • A 2003 review of more than 500,000 participants found a decreased risk of 25% to nearly 50% of all-cause mortality for very low meat intake compared with higher meat intake.
  • “This clinical-based evidence can assist physicians in counseling patients about the important role diet plays, leading to improved preventive care,” said Brookshield Laurent, DO, an assistant professor of family medicine and clinical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury.

Tips for patients

The clinical review researchers recommend advising patients to:

  • Limit animal products when possible.
  • Substitute red meat and processed meat with plant-based foods.
  • Supplement a plant-based diet with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs and dairy if desired.

Read the JAOA clinical review to learn more.


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