Once again researchers are raising a red flag over red meat. A National Cancer Institute study tracked nearly 537,000 adults between 50 and 71, monitoring their diet and health over the course of 16 years. They found those who routinely ate the most processed and unprocessed red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork, had a 26 percent greater risk of dying from one of nine ailments: cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, and liver disease. On the other hand, replacing red meat with white meat, including fish and poultry, was linked with a 25 percent lower risk of death from most causes, The New York Times reports.
The researchers speculate that iron and nitrates found in red and cured meats trigger an imbalance known as oxidative stress, which may explain the risk discrepancy, but emphasize that their findings are preliminary. “This is an observational study, and we can’t determine whether red meat is responsible for these associations,” says lead author Arash Etemadi, “But we have a 16 year follow-up.”