Several recent studies have reported an increased risk of death and chronic diseases, including several cancers and coronary artery disease, when consuming high red meat. Processed red meats, such as cold cuts, are particularly singled out.
Posted on December 2 in the British Medical Journal, a new scientific study suggests that replacing the consumption of red meat with that of vegetable proteins (soya, nuts, lentils and other pulses) at least once a day, would significantly reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Swapping your portion of red meat for a plant-based alternative would therefore be a profitable strategy for artery health.
The study was conducted using data from 43,272 American men (average age 53) who were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at the time of their enrollment in the study. The participants completed a detailed questionnaire about their diet, in 1986 at the start of the study, then every four years until 2016. At the same time, they provided the researchers with information on their medical history and lifestyle. .
During these 30 years of follow-up, 4,456 coronary events (due to sudden obstruction of a coronary artery) were documented, of which 1,860 were fatal.
After taking into account other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the researchers found that at one serving per day, red meat was associated with a modestly higher risk of coronary heart disease (12%). Similar associations were observed for unprocessed red meat (11% higher risk) and processed red meat (15% higher risk).
However, compared to red meat, consuming one serving per day of various vegetable protein sources, including tree nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) and soybeans was associated with 14% reduced risk of coronary heart disease. This risk was even lower (18%) in men over 65 and compared to the daily consumption of processed red meat (17%).
The study also specifies that replacing red meat with whole grains, dairy products (such as milk, cheese and yogurt) or eggs was also associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Note that the consumption of fish has not been associated with a beneficial effect on coronary heart health, perhaps, according to the researchers, due to the fact that it is sometimes eaten deep fried or in an ultra-processed way.
Although it is only observational and therefore does not establish a cause and effect relationship, this study was still carried out for 30 years, which leaves us to say that its results are still quite robust.
“These results are consistent with the effects of these foods on LDL cholesterol levels. (low density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol, editor’s note) and suggest a health benefit in limiting your consumption of red meat and replacing it with vegetable protein sources”, Conclude the researchers. They point out that this simple dietary measure would also have significant benefits for the environment given the pollution generated by cattle breeding.