Red Meat is Fine! Well, Maybe ...
Nutritionists and doctors have been saying for years to limit your consumption of red meat. Certainly I have been one of those and research on Mediterranean diet shows that limited consumption is best but this has never meant "don't eat red meat at all."

Much of the research has been based on studies that show an association between consumption of saturated fat and various diseases. Likewise, there are large studies that have shown similar links between red meat and heart disease as well as some cancers. In terms of nutrition, "red meat" includes unprocessed beef, pork and lamb. (Pork is NOT the "other white meat.") "Processed meats," on the other hand, include items such as hot dogs, salami, bacon and other cured meats. Recommendations that follow Mediterranean Diet guidelines suggest that you limit the amount of red meat you eat and instead eat more fish and vegetarian meals.

A recent study published in the journal Circulation takes a closer look at the connection between red meat, processed meats, and heart disease and diabetes. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others, researchers from Harvard Medical School reviewed the data from 20 research articles of red and processed meat consumption and the link to heart disease and diabetes. These studies included over 1.2 million people who were tracked between 4 and 18 years and provided dietary and health information through detailed questionnaires, telephone interviews, or a combination of both.

The researchers grouped the respondents into rising levels of red meat consumption, from less than 1 serving per week to 1 or more servings per day. They also created similar groups for amounts of processed meats as well as a combination of both red meat and processed meats as a total.

Their findings are particularly striking:

  • Those who ate 1 serving of red meat per day were at no greater risk of heart disease than those who ate less than 1 serving per week. The same was true of the risk of diabetes.

  • However, each serving of processed meat (bacon, salami, hot dogs, etc.) eaten per day led to a 42% increase in risk of heart disease and a 19% increase in risk of diabetes.

  • Each serving per day of meat, both processed and unprocessed, tended to show a higher risk of heart disease, but these findings were strongly skewed by two studies. If those two studies were excluded, the risk fell to near normal. The risk of diabetes rose 12% for each serving of meat, whether red meat or processed meat (not including poultry or fish). One critical item, here: the researchers defined 1 serving of red meat to be 100 grams (that's about 3 1/2 ounces). One serving of processed meat, however, was defined as just half that size: 50 grams.

  • There is mounting evidence that red meat itself is not all that bad for you and that having red meat a couple of times a week is far better for you than having processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs, every day. Better to save those foods special occasions like weekend brunch, picnics or the ballpark.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet

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