The red meat scare
A new study finds that a diet rich in red meat and processed meats can lead to premature death.
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The study, which is the largest of its kind, came out recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine. For 10 years researchers tracked 500,000 people, ages 50-71, documenting what they ate over the course of that decade. The results find that people who consumed the equivalent of one hamburger a day increased their chances of dying by 30 percent.
To fully understand the implications of this research, "The Takeaway" talks to Barry Popkin who wrote an editorial accompanying this study. He is a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he heads the division of nutrition epidemiology.
Professor Popkin breaks down the numbers and the study: "Going from one steak a day or one Whopper a day, to once a week would reduce your risk of dying by 25 - 30 percent. To put that in real terms, that would mean about a million reduced deaths over that ten-year period for those just 50-70 ... where we have 25 million men.
"The risks are about the same in terms of reduction of women, but there were fewer female deaths during that period so the numbers aren't quite so startling.
"This is a very well-done study -- they controlled for your weight, they controlled for your fruit and vegetable intake, your drinking, your smoking, your supplement use -- this is the additional effect of just consuming red meat.
"This is the first study that had such careful data on such a large representative sample of people of retirement age -- members of AARP -- that we can say that it's a little bit more like the Rolls Royce of studies such as this done in the U.S.
"These results were backed up by a second set of analysis looking at the effects of processed meat -- and processed meats are hot dogs, sausages, pepperoni, cold cuts -- and that's even more startling. If you consume about an ounce a day of those ... processed meats -- that's essentially a hot dog a week -- you are going to increase your risk in a comparable manner of death. So going from eating some processed meat -- a hot dog a week to once a month or every two months -- will ... make the same kind of savings in your long-term health."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.