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A new study published in BMJ cannot tell exactly how much red meat is okay to eat to maintain good health or prevent disease.
But it helps to sort out a large picture, and perhaps more important question: What does a healthy pattern look like?
A diet that contains plenty of nuts, seeds, fish, vegetables and whole grains – and perhaps up to an egg a day – seems to be better than a diet rich in red meat, especially processed meat such as bacon and hot dog.
Already a large amount of evidence of evidence links processed red meat to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
And this new study, which included about 80,000 men and women, shows that limiting red and processed meat can help reduce the risk of premature death.
"We tracked our participants' eating habits for decades," explains study author Frank Hu, chairman of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health Nutrition Department. This made it possible for Hu and his colleagues to compare people who increased their red and processed meat intake over time with those who had a relatively stable intake. On average, adults in the United States consume one serving per day.
Overall, those who increased their intake of processed red meat by about 3.5 servings a week, had about 13 percent higher risk of death during the study's eight-year follow-up period.
"We estimated that when people replaced red and processed meat with nuts, seeds, fish [and other alternatives sources of protein, as well as vegetables and whole grains]they experienced more than a 10 percent reduction in the risk of mortality." During the follow-up period, Hu explains.  I asked Tom Sherman, a professor at Georgetown University who teaches nutrition to medical students, to look at the study. "First, I thought," oh no, another paper that shows it is bad to eat red meat, "wrote Sherman via email." But in fact, this is quite interesting "because it looks at changes in behavior.
"Changes in behavior are quite enlightening and diagnostic," says Sherman. He says changes can signal that a person is beginning to draw attention to his diet – or is actively ignoring it. And these changes have "consistent or negative effects on their risk of chronic disease: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer, "he says.
This is an observation study, so it cannot be proven cause and effect between diet and death, but it can create a compound. Sherman says that a disadvantage of all observational nutrition studies is that it is difficult to select the independent effect of changes in meat consumption from other lifestyle factors such as body weight, exercise, alcohol hole consumption etc. But these new results are consistent with a larger body of evidence
Hu notes that the risks associated with red meat consumption are higher – and most pronounced – with processed red meat.
"Processed meat usually contains high amounts of sodium and preservatives," says Hu. In addition, high-heat preparation methods, such as grills, can produce carcinogens. And new research has linked high red meat consumption – especially processed meat – with less diversity and abundance of healthy bacteria in "This can contribute to increased risk," says Hu.
Sherman adds: "I always run into me before sharing data on red and refined meat consumption and mortality, CVD [cardiovascular disease] or cancer risks in my students because it sounds so incredibly scary. "
" Unfortunately, "he says," it seems to be correct. "