Meat, high protein diets and health

Numerous studies have considered the health effects of high meat and high animal protein consumption. Evidence shows that higher red meat consumption, especially processed red meat (e.g., bacon, hot dogs, and sausages), is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, and mortality. Additional health outcomes associated with consumption of processed red meat include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, and hypertension. Consuming processed red meat may entail a greater risk because along with high amounts of saturated fats, there
are adverse effects from preservatives (e.g. sodium, nitrites, and phosphates) and preparation methods (e.g., potential cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from high-temperature commercial cooking/frying) that could influence health outcomes.

In one observational analysis, both unprocessed and processed meat consumption was associated with higher heart disease risk when meat replaced foods, such as low-fat dairy, nuts, and fish. A meta-analysis of prospective studies indicates that high consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, may increase all-cause and CVD mortality. In one study, the substitution of one serving per day of other foods (e.g., fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains) for one serving per day of red meat was associated with a 7% to 19% lower mortality risk. A related study evaluated 85,168 women and 44,548 men without heart
disease, cancer or diabetes from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study. It concluded, “A low-carbohydrate diet based on animal sources was associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men and women
whereas a vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates.”

A 2014 study published in Cell Metabolism concluded that “Respondents aged 50–65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a fourfold increase in cancer and diabetes death risk during the following 18 years. These
associations were not found in the older population studied, and they were either abolished or attenuated if the proteins were plant-derived.” The study noted that people over 65 might benefit from more protein, perhaps because they tend to be frail and malnourished. The authors also reported that among those of all ages without type 2 diabetes at baseline, those in the high animal protein group had a 5-fold or greater increase risk of diabetes mortality during the 18-year study period. A 2015 meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies found an association between processed meat consumption and a 15% increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in U.S. populations.

And a 2017 NIH-AARP study found that high intakes of red and processed meat and elevated all-cause mortality and mortality
from nine different causes including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and hepatic, renal, and respiratory diseases. The strongest association was death from chronic liver disease, which more than doubled with the highest intake. The fifth of the study participants consuming the most red and processed meat had a 26% greater all-cause mortality than the fifth of the study subjects consuming the least. The study also showed reduced risks were associated with substituting white for red meat, particularly unprocessed white meat.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.