Red Meat

If you are eating unprocessed red meat on a regular basis then you must stop. In a recent study, unprocessed red meat has been found to increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, which is a group of conditions of a colon and small intestine.

This study is based on the observation of 26 years of data, starting from the year 1986 to 2012, on a large number of men from U.S. The 46,500 men aged between 40 and 76 were studied every four years, their meat eating, poultry eating, smoking and excessing habits were recorded. Out of the total number, 764 men begin to show the symptoms of diverticulitis, a digestive disease in which the pouches within the large bowel wall becomes inflamed.

These were the same men who mostly opted for the ‘six or more times a day’ out of 8 more options that were asked under ‘how often, on average, they had eaten standard size portions of red meat, including processed meat; poultry; and fish, over the preceding year’. The options also included ‘never’, ‘less than once a month’.

The relation of diverticulitis was seen to be clearly relating to the high intake of red meat. Other factors were taken into consideration too and it was found that the chances of bowel diseases due to red meat increase by 58 percent. If one cuts a daily portion of the meat intake, then the chances decrease by 20 percent.

Dr Yin Cao, from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in the British Medical Journal: “We identified unprocessed red meat, but not processed red meat, as the major driver for the link between red meat and diverticulitis. In contrast, higher consumption of poultry or fish was not linked with risk of incident diverticulitis. However, substitution of one serving of unprocessed red meat per day with poultry or fish was associated with a 20% lower risk of diverticulitis.”

Andrew Chan, MD, the lead author of the study and program director of the Gastrointestinal Training Program at Massachusetts General Hospital says that the ‘how’ of the relation is yet to be known. For now, the assumption is that the bacteria in the gut is altered by the meat. The unprocessed red meat on high temperatures even more related to the risk of diverticulitis.

Grilled, barbecued, and smoked meats also have been seen to increase the risk of breast cancer in women and a higher risk of heart disease.

The findings were published online in the journal ‘Gut’.