Eating a meat-rich diet can put you at a higher risk of death, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A diet rich in animal protein and meat, in particular, is not good for the health, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland finds, providing further backing for earlier research evidence. Men who favored animal protein over plant-based protein in their diet had a greater risk of death in a 20-year follow-up than men whose diet was more balanced in terms of their sources of protein.
Men whose primary sources of protein were animal-based had a 23 percent higher risk of death during the follow-up than men who had the most balanced ratio of animal and plant-based protein in their diet. A high intake of meat, in particular, seemed to associate with adverse effects: men eating a diet rich in meat, i.e., more than 200 grams per day, had a 23 percent greater risk of death during the follow-up than men whose intake of meat was less than 100 grams per day. The men participating in the study mainly ate red meat. Most nutrition recommendations nowadays limit the intake of red and processed meats. In Finland, for example, the recommended maximum intake is 500 grams per week.
"However, these findings should not be generalized to older people who are at a greater risk of malnutrition and whose intake of protein often remains below the recommended amount," Ph.D. Student Heli Virtanen from the University of Eastern Finland points out.
Earlier studies have suggested that a high intake of animal protein, and especially the consumption of processed meats such as sausages and cold cuts, is associated with an increased risk of death. However, the big picture relating to the health effects of protein and different protein sources remains unclear.
The study is based on the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) that analyzed the dietary habits of approximately 2,600 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 at the onset of the study in 1984-1989. The research team studied the mortality of this study population in an average follow-up of 20 years by analyzing registers provided by Statistics Finland. The analyses focused on the associations of dietary protein and protein sources with mortality during the follow-up, and other lifestyle factors and dietary habits were extensively controlled for, including the fact that those eating plenty of plant-based protein followed a healthier diet.