One of the longest running debates in the health-food world is whether red meat is a friend or foe. Many nutritionists label red meat a prime nutrient-rich option — it’s packed with iron and its protein-to-ounce ratio is one of the highest you can find at your grocery store. But despite a few nutritional benefits, can red meat actually do more harm than good? A few recent studies would indicate the answer is yes. So before you take a bite into that fat, juicy burger, read a few of these warnings.
1. It might hurt your heart
For years, scientists have found evidence that red meat has harmful effects on your heart, but only recently have they begun to uncover why. Multiple studies have found a bacteria in our gut metabolizes L-carnitine, a chemical compound found in red meat, and converts it to the compound trimethylamine-N-oxide. This compound is bad news for our hearts, because it has been proven over and over again to cause atherosclerosis in humans — the hardening of the cardiovascular arteries. So, while red meat might be great for pumping iron into our systems, it’s not so great for keeping our blood pumping.
2. It could kill your kidneys
A study from Texas A&M University found red meat could wreak havoc on your kidneys. In one of the largest studies to look at kidney disease, researchers found that out of all the patients with chronic kidney disease, those who consumed diets high in animal protein were three times more likely to develop kidney failure than those who stuck with diets high in fruits and veggies. The researchers believe this is because when humans eat animal proteins like red meat, the body converts the proteins into acids. Kidneys then produce substances to fight back, and over extended periods of time, the kidneys become severely damaged as a result.
3. It could cause diabetes
We all know about the link between sugar and type-2 diabetes. But did you know chowing down on too many steaks could result in the same disease? One paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at subjects who ate 3.5 more servings of red meat a week. In this four-year study, researchers found subjects who increased their meat consumption also increased their risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 50%.
4. It could cause cancer
Researchers have also investigated the general long-term effects of red meat on human life. Countless studies indicate high consumption of beef has been linked to high cancer and mortality rates. One study from Harvard School of Public Health observed 37,698 men and 83,644 women for 22 years. When analyzing the data, they found that regular consumption of red meat increased the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 18% and 21%, and it increased risk of cancer mortality by 10% and 16%. Whatever the underlying reason, the results are eye-opening. So if you want to keep life going as long as you can, consider cutting down, especially processed meats.
Even with more and more research revealing the dangers of red meat, nothing is definitive yet. So if you’re not ready to go full vegetarian, just remember that moderation is key for any less-than-perfect food. Stick to two 3- to 4-ounce portions of red meat a week (or even month) and go for lean cuts to avoid saturated fat and crazy calories. We understand that when it comes to red meat, quitting cold turkey (or, in this case, beef) may not be realistic for everyone.
5. You could die early
You might want to listen up if you are someone who considers themselves relatively healthy. Red meat and dairy, while fine on occasion, are high in saturated fats. Research has looked at how eating different types of fat can affect longevity, and one example actually asked some participants to replace 5% of their calories from saturated fats with calories from unsaturated fats instead. The result was a 27% reduction in the risk of death. Long story short? Replacing unhealthy fats with good ones could help you live longer. So, you might want to swap that butter for olive oil and that steak for a salmon fillet.