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Red Meat Gets Red Flagged

New study claims red meat may shorten a person's lifespan

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Do you enjoy a delicious burger or juicy steak? Then you're not going to like what you're about to read.

A recent study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute claims that consuming red meat contributes to a host of health risks, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and stomach ulcers.

"The consumption of red meat was associated with a modest increase in total mortality," said Rashmi Sinha, lead author of the study, which appeared in the March 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Sinha, Ph.D., and a team of researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., evaluated the connection between meat intake and risk of death among more than 500,000 individuals ranging in age from 50 to 71 years old when the study began in 1995.

Individuals in the study were followed for 10 years and it was determined that of the 47,976 men and 23,276 women who died during that period, the one-fifth of men and women who ate the most red meat (a median or midpoint of 62.5 grams per 1,000 calories per day) had a higher risk for overall death, death from heart disease and death from cancer than the one-fifth of men and women who ate the least red meat (a median of 9.8 grams per 1,000 calories per day).

There are several reasons why meat may be related to a higher mortality rate, the authors note. For starters, cancer-causing carcinogens form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. Meat also contains a high level of saturated fat, which has been associated with breast and colon cancer. In addition, lower meat intake has been linked to a reduction in risk factors for heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"This fits together with the findings of the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Cancer Society, which recommend limiting the consumption of red meat," added Sinha, who is a senior investigator with the cancer epidemiology and genetics division at the Cancer Institute. "This is something new in the sense of mortality."

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