Although the link between consuming processed meats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, studies focusing on the link between heart issues and other meats, such as unprocessed red meat, poultry and fish, have more mixed conclusions. Thus, to find out how exactly other meats may affect cardiovascular health, researchers from Cornell University and North Western University conducted a meta-analysis on six existing studies.
For the analysis, the researchers looked at prospective cohort studies carried out across the US examining 29,682 adults who did not have CVD at baseline. Data-wise, the studies included information on each participant's diets between 1985 and 2002, alongside their health records between 1985 and 2016. Of the participants, 44% were men, while 31% were from non-white demographics, and, during the course of the study, they noted 6,963 adverse cardiovascular events alongside 8,875 all-cause deaths.
After comparing datasets on diet and health, the researchers found that eating two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry, although not fish, per week, was associated with a 3 - 7% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Moreover, two servings of red meat or processed meat was associated with a 3% higher risk of all-cause mortality.
The researchers also found that those who ate two servings per week of poultry had a 4% higher risk of developing CVD than others, although they warned that evidence in this case is still insufficient to make clear recommendations on poultry intake. They added that the relationship here may also be related to the method of cooking of chicken, and the consumption of skin, as opposed to to the meat itself.
Senior study author, Norrina Allen, said, "It's a small difference, but it's worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats...Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”
Co-author of the study, Linda Van Horn said, “"Fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat and are under-consumed in the U.S.”