A 26-year study of 84,136 women shows that higher red meat consumption greatly increased the risk of heart disease. The study also concludes that eating a diet which substitutes fish, poultry, nuts and low-fat dairy for red meat significantly decreases that risk.
The Nurses’ Health Study, published in the most recent online edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, tracked women between the ages of 30 and 55 from 1980 to 2006. It found that women who ate two servings per day of red meat had a 30-per-cent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease as compared to women who ate only half a serving per day.
The data also revealed that eating more poultry, fish and nuts were associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. In particular they found that compared to women who ate one serving of red meat per day, women who substituted this serving for nuts had a 30-per-cent lower risk of heart disease; those who substituted with fish had a 24-per-cent lower risk; with poultry a 19-per-cent lower risk; and with low-fat dairy a 13-per-cent lower risk.
Researchers say the study is significant because of its large sample size, its 26-year follow-up, and because it more precisely measured diet through the questionnaire the women were regularly given.
“Our study shows that making substitutes for red meat or minimizing the amount of red meat in the diet has important health benefits,” says Adam Bernstein, the study’s first author and a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Although this study included only women, our overall knowledge of risk factors for heart disease suggests that the findings are likely to apply to men as well.”