MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Women who eat a lot of red
meat may be increasing their risk of developing heart disease,
Harvard researchers report.
Substituting fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and nuts for red meat
can significantly reduce that risk, however, the study authors
"This study is one of many showing a link between eating red meat, processed meat and full-fat dairy products, and heart disease," said Samantha Heller, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.
It seems obvious that people should reduce their intake of meat
and dairy foods. "But there are many people who feel it is almost
impossible to give up or limit butter, steak, ham and cheese," she
said. "Americans are also concerned with getting enough protein.
However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] says
that most Americans have plenty, if not a surplus, of protein in
If people looked at this as a matter of simple swaps, it may be
easier to make some healthy changes, she added.
"So, instead of a ham-and-cheese sandwich for lunch, have a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich. Jump in the Meatless Monday trend, and have whole-grain pasta primavera for dinner on Monday. Make Sunday's chili vegetarian, with lots of vegetables and beans. Try a veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun for your cookout. Swap cheese and crackers for low-fat cheese and apple slices," Heller suggested.
The report is published in the Aug. 16 online edition of
For the study, a team lead by Dr. Adam M. Bernstein, a
postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at
Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, collected data on 84,136
women, aged 30 to 55, who took part in the Nurses' Health Study
over 26 years, from 1980 to 2006.
Over that time, there were 2,210 nonfatal heart attacks and 952
deaths from heart disease, the researchers noted.
Bernstein's group found that women who ate the highest amount of
red meat were at the highest risk for heart disease. However,
eating poultry, fish and nuts was associated with a lower risk of
In fact, compared to one serving a day of red meat, women who
ate one serving a day of other protein-rich foods had a:
- 30 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving
- 24 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving
- 19 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving
- 13 percent lower risk of heart disease if they ate one serving
of low-fat dairy.
"You don't need to have hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna or pastrami," Bernstein said in a news release from the journal's publisher.
"Although this study included only women, our overall knowledge of risk factors for heart disease suggests that the findings are likely to apply to men as well," he added.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the
University of California, Los Angeles, said that "a number of prior
observational studies have explored the complex relationships
between various food types in the diet and the long-term risk of
coronary heart disease."
While most studies have shown that fish intake is associated
with decreased risk for coronary heart disease, the findings
regarding red meat consumption and risk have been mixed. Some have
shown no increased risk, others have found the risk is only
associated with processed meat, and in others a relationship was
seen only with total red meat consumption, he explained.
This new observational study of women found that higher intake
of red meat was associated with higher risk of heart disease.
"However, it is important to acknowledge that this is an observational study, rather than a prospective, randomized clinical trial. Whether a shift in protein source in the diet would actually reduce coronary heart disease events remains to be demonstrated," Fonarow said.
For more information on diet and heart disease, visit the
American Heart Association.