The conflicting data and meat spin by the industry is another confusing road block for patients attempting to make healthy choices
A comprehensive study of 29,682 participants by Northwestern University revealed that eating meat only twice a week showed a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death, and processed meats raised the risk to 7% for early heart disease or death. This is in contrast to the meat spin consumers received last year in study results saying Americans didn’t need to eat less meat.
Chiropractors that cater to nutrition, weight loss or general wellness need to take note — the results were not only the same for red meats and processed meats, but also poultry. Eating fish, the study says, was not linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
“However, these results should not be shocking,” wrote Hiyaguha Cohen for the Baseline of Health Foundation website. “We have repeatedly discussed the dangers of high-meat diets and have covered many studies, such as the one by Harvard School of Public Health in Boston that found that people who eat processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats have a 42% higher risk of getting heart disease and a 19% higher risk of getting Type 2 diabetes for each daily serving of about 1.8 ounces (50 grams) they have. In other words, the 42 percent higher risk for heart disease and increased diabetes risk comes from eating as little as 1.8 ounces of processed meat.”
The study was part of a meta-analysis that looked at 1,600 studies from around the world and used the 20 that were found most relevant. The 20 studies involved 1,218,310 people from 10 countries in North America, Australia, Europe and Asia.
“Interestingly, in the Harvard study, eating unprocessed red meat — beef, pork, and lamb — did not correspond to a higher risk for either disease,” Cohen wrote. “But the latest Northwestern study showed that eating just two servings of any red meat per week was associated with a 3% higher risk of premature death from any cause. And, again, if you eat processed meat, the risk goes up to 7%. In fact, in 2015, a World Health Organization evidence review concluded that processed meats are a proven cancer-causing substance. Processed or not, they conclude that there’s no truly risk-free way to eat red meat.”
Small burger raises risk
A study conducted by the National Institutes for Health and the AARP including more than 500,000 individuals between the ages of 50-71 for more than a decade found that subjects who ate the equivalent of a small hamburger daily had a 30% elevated risk of death from all causes, but particularly from cancer and heart problems.
Processed meats are another level of risk as they have higher sodium nitrate and preservatives with some research linking them to an increased cancer risk.
“[This is] a finding that would be met with a big ‘duh’ if it didn’t come on the heels of a controversial report suggesting people don’t necessarily need to eat less meat,” wrote the South China Morning Post of the meat spin over the last year. “A report, published in October  in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said there was insufficient evidence to recommend people reduce meat intake. Some public health experts questioned the accuracy of those conclusions and some of the authors were later called out for not disclosing industry funding on other projects.”
The conflicting data and meat spin by the industry is another confusing road block for patients attempting to make healthy choices.
Keeping patients on a healthy path
Norrina Allen, associate professor of epidemiology and paediatrics at Northwestern’s medical school, and senior author of the new study, said, “I hope people consider eating red and processed meat in moderation and try and consume more fruits and vegetables and whole grains.”
Even with the popularity of soy meat substitutes such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, drastically reducing meat consumption would be a difficult turn for U.S. consumers who in 2017 ate nine billion chickens, 32.2 million cattle and calves, 241.7 million turkeys, 2.2 million sheep and lambs, and 121 million hogs.
“Processed meat and poultry products like bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham and other deli meats are great American traditions and iconic foods,” reads the North American Meat Institute website. “In fact, bacon is often called the ultimate ‘conversion food’ because it tempts even the strictest vegetarian…While there will always be people who over-consume or under-consume, the data suggest that on average, consumers are consuming meat and poultry at recommended levels.”
According to The Telegraph the U.S. retains the lead as the top meat-consuming country in the world at 120kg of meat per person per year, followed by Kuwait (119.2kg), Australia (111.5kg), the Bahamas (109.5kg), and Luxembourg (10.9kg).