Red meat as a main source of protein shortens lifespan

Red meat as a main source of protein shortens lifespanIf red meat is your main source of protein, you are at a higher risk for early mortality, compared to people who get their protein from plant-based diet, according to a recent study. The research findings also suggest that not all animal proteins come with the same level of risk, and that red meat eaters often partake in other unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking.

Lead researcher Dr. Mingyang Song said, “We found protein from red meat, particularly processed red meat, is strongly associated with mortality. The protein from fish or chicken is not really associated with mortality.”


The study revealed:

  • For every three percent increase in plant-based protein in their daily diet, participants experienced a 10 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 12 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality.
  • Participants experienced a two percent increase in all-cause mortality risk and an eight percent increased risk of cardiovascular mortality for every 10 percent increase of animal protein in their daily diet.
  • Trading three percent of calories from animal protein for plant protein lowered overall risk of premature death, based on the type of animal protein.
  • Early mortality risk dropped 34 percent in participants who consumed less processed red meat, 12 percent for less unprocessed red meat, and 19 percent for fewer eggs. Examples of processed red meats are bacon, sausage, and deli meats.

Processed meats tend to be high in sodium and nitrates, which have previously been linked to heart disease and cancer.

Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, contain fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and other beneficial nutrients necessary for healthy functioning of the body.

Dietician and fitness instructor Jim White said, “I’m not one to say stop eating red meat. But if someone is eating three servings of red meat a week, I would recommend switching to fish or chicken, or some form of plant-based protein.”


The study found that the negative effects of red meat were mostly seen in individuals who engaged in other unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and drinking. Dr. Song explained, “The dietary patterns between the healthy and the unhealthy groups are very different, especially in protein sources and amount of intake. People in the unhealthy group tend to consume protein from red meat and dairy, especially high-fat dairy. People in the healthy lifestyle group primarily consumed animal protein from fish or chicken.”

The study yielded mixed results for foods like eggs and dairy. Although these are not as bad as red meat, chicken and fish were still considered healthier options.

Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) increases with red meat consumption: Study

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.