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Can Red Meat Shorten Your Life?

A diet high in red meat greatly increases the risk of death from certain diseases.

Red meat kills. Eating a diet high in foods such as steak, slabs of bacon, or pepperoni sticks greatly increases your risk of dying—in particular from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Red meat has been linked to chronic diseases before, but a new study by Harvard Medical School shows how strong of a negative effect it can have on your health. Researchers looked at over 120,000 men and women, and found that eating an extra serving a day of unprocessed red meat increased the overall risk of death by 13%. For processed meats, the overall risk increased by 20%. The risk of death by cardiovascular disease increased by 18% and 21% for unprocessed and processed meats, respectively. Death by cancer increased 10% and 16%. Researchers suspect that the saturated fat in red meat—and the sodium in processed meats—is partially responsible for the shortened lifespans of red meat-eaters. Sodium is known to increase blood pressure, which is a risk for cardiovascular disease. If giving up red meat feels worse than dying, you can still benefit from reducing the amount that you eat. The researchers estimated that substituting one serving of red meat a day with fish, chicken, nuts, or lentils could reduce the risk of death by 7% to 19%. You may not be eating as much red meat overall, but you’ll have more time to enjoy it.

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