Eating red and processed meats—even in small amounts—may increase the risk of early death, according to a new study from Loma Linda University Health. The study evaluated the deaths of over 7,900 Seventh-day Adventist men and women from the United States and Canada over an 11-year period, which included a diet assessment by a validated food frequency questionnaire and mortality outcome data obtained from the National Death Index. Adventists were studied because of their unique population: approximately 50 percent are vegetarians, and those who consume meat do so at low levels, with 90 percent of them consuming about two ounces or less of red meat per day. This allowed researchers to investigate the effect of low levels of red and processed meat intake compared to zero-intake in a large setting. Nearly 2,600 of the reported deaths were due to cardiovascular disease, and over 1,800 were cancer-related deaths. The study indicated that the total intake of red and processed meat was associated with relatively higher risks of total and cardiovascular disease deaths. “Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan,” study co-author Michael Orlich, MD, PhD, said. The new findings support a significant body of research that affirms the potential ill health effects of consuming red and/or processed meats.

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