How much red meat do you typically consume in a given week? There's no denying the fact that hamburgers and steaks are delicious, but there's new evidence suggesting they are bad for your health.
Red Meat Linked to Heart Disease
According to a new study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and Northwestern Medicine, people who eat two or more servings of red meat per week have a 3% to 7% greater risk of developing heart disease than their counterparts who eat fewer servings of red meat per week.
Researchers also found a correlation between red meat consumption and overall mortality. In other words, people who eat lots of red meat are more likely to die from all causes -- not just heart disease -- than their counterparts.
It's unknown why or how red meat increases the risk of heart disease. One theory lies in a specific chemical that's created naturally in the digestive system in response to the consumption of red meat. Known as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), previous studies have linked this chemical to an increased risk of heart disease. Another theory is that red meat increases levels of bad cholesterol, which in turn can lead to heart disease. When cholesterol accumulates inside your arteries, it can restrict blood flow while raising your blood pressure in the process. The culmination of these effects can place you at a greater risk for heart disease.
Moderation Is Key
Don't let this study fool you into thinking that an occasional hamburger or steak will give you heart disease. As with most things in life, moderation is key.
"Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level," said Victor Zhong, the study's lead author and researcher.
Avoid eating red meat every day or even every other day. Instead, make it a small part of your weekly diet. While the aforementioned study found that people who eat two or more servings of red meat per week have a 3% to 7% higher risk of heart disease than their counterparts, it's probably best to err on the side of caution by limiting your consumption of red meat to no more than once a week.
Other types of meat don't carry the same increased risk of heart disease as red meat. Fish, for example, is generally a safer and healthier choice of meat. Fish contains beneficial fats known as unsaturated fatty acids that actually work to protect against heart disease.
This study was published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.