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Quick Dose: Is Red Meat Bad for Your Heart?

This article was originally published in Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine News Center. It has been modified for Northwestern Medicine’s content hub, HealthBeat.

Red meat is a great source of protein and nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin B. But, research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Cornell University suggests that consuming red and processed meat increases your risk of heart disease and death.

What the Data Says

Two, 3.5-ounce servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry per week were linked to a 3 percent to 7 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 3 percent higher risk of death.

“It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats,” says Norrina B. Allen, PhD, director of the Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, part of Northwestern University’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine. Dr. Allen was the lead author on the study. “Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”

Healthier Sources of Protein

“Fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein ― such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas ― are excellent alternatives to meat,” says study co-author Linda V. Van Horn, PhD, RD, chief of nutrition in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Van Horn also is a member of the 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.