Negative Health Effects of Red Meat

Trading your hamburger for chicken may lower your risk for chronic diseases.
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If you enjoy eating red meat, you aren't alone, as more than half of the meat eaten in the United States is red meat. While eating red meat helps you get plenty of protein, niacin, vitamin B-12, iron and zinc in your diet, there are some potential negative health effects from eating it regularly. Think of red meat as a special-occasion food instead of one you eat every day.

Heart Disease

Red meat tends to be high in both saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which may increase your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. The more servings of red or processed meats you eat each day, the higher your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" in April 2012. However, if you eat only lean red meat and trim off all visible fat, you won't increase your risk for high cholesterol or heart disease, according to another study published in 2005 in the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition."


The type of red meat you choose may also affect your diabetes risk. Processed red meats, like bacon, ham, sausages, hot dogs and lunch meats, may make you more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, but not other types of red meat, according to a study published in "Circulation" in 2010. This effect may be due to the differences in cooking methods or differences in the amount of calories, sodium, fat and additives in processed meats compared to other red meats.


If you eat red meat regularly, you may have an increased risk for cancer. A study published in "PLoS Medicine" in December 2007 found that red meat consumption was associated with a higher risk for cancers of the lung, esophagus, colon and liver. The way you cook your meat could play a part in this increased risk, with methods that involve high temperatures, such as pan frying, causing more of an increase in cancer risk than other methods, according to a study published in "Carcinogenesis" in 2012.


You don't have to totally give up red meat to lower your risk for these health conditions. Avoid processed meats as much as possible, choose lean meat with all visible fat removed and think of red meat more as a treat for special occasions than as an everyday food. Instead, opt for lean protein sources like seafood or poultry and choose vegetarian protein sources, such as beans, more often.

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