Life expectancy already reduced by meat twice a week

Life expectancy already reduced by meat twice a week

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Red meat and poultry increase the risk of heart disease

Is meat unhealthy or not? Science has been arguing about this for a long time. A current and large-scale analysis shows once again that regular meat consumption is associated with health disadvantages. The negative effects, including increased risks of heart disease, cancer and premature death, were seen in red and processed meat, but also in part in poultry.

American researchers from Northwestern Medicine and Cornell University have once again demonstrated the harmful effects associated with regular consumption of red meat, processed meat and poultry. According to the study, meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of premature death. In contrast, fish consumption seems to be harmless. The results were recently published in the renowned journal "JAMA Internal Medicine".

Another study confirms that meat is unhealthy

After several studies already found a connection between the consumption of red meat and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, a controversial study in autumn 2019 put this effect into perspective. The current, large-scale study again underlines the harmful effects of consuming red and processed meat. According to the study, even poultry consumption is said to be associated with increased disease risks.

Even two servings of meat a week harm

According to the study, eating two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry each week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by three to seven percent. In addition, the consumption of two servings of red or processed meat, but not poultry, is associated with a three percent higher risk of premature death. Fish consumption, however, was not associated with any harmful effects.

Harmful effects are relatively small

"There is a small difference, but it is worth trying to reduce the consumption of red meat and processed meat," explains study author Norrina Allen. She is a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The consumption of red meat is always associated with other health problems such as cancer,” adds the nutrition expert.

Robust connection

"Changing the intake of this animal protein food can be an important strategy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at the population level," adds assistant professor Victor Zhong. "Our study supports that the relationship between meat consumption, cardiovascular disease and mortality is robust," said Zhong.

What are good meat alternatives

"Fish, seafood and vegetable protein sources such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat and are under-consumed in the United States," emphasizes Professor Linda Van Horn from the study team. She is also a member of the advisory committee that establishes nutritional guidelines in the United States.

Poultry also affected?

The study also found a link between poultry consumption and an increased risk of heart disease. However, the researchers point out that the previous findings are not sufficient to make a clear recommendation on poultry consumption. Nutritionist Zhong thinks fried poultry is particularly problematic.

About the study

In total, the study analyzed the data from almost 30,000 participants - all from samples from six cohorts that included data from up to three decades. One of the limiting factors of the study is that the participants themselves provided information about their eating habits. In addition, no cooking methods were considered. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the Feinberg School of Medicine. (vb)

Read also: Low protein diet protects against heart disease.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Northwestern University: Meat isn’t good for you - Eating red meat and processed meat hikes heart disease, death risk (published: February 3rd, 2020),
  • Victor W. Zhong, Linda Van Horn, Philip Greenland, et al .: Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality; in: JAMA Internal Medicine, 2020,

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