Beef and Chronic Disease

The relationship of beef and health has been extensively studied. Over 10 years of research has found no association between eating fresh red meat and any cause of death, including heart disease or cancer.3-4

In the largest worldwide review of red meat and heart disease ever completed, researchers at Harvard found that eating up to 100g of unprocessed red meat (beef, pork, lamb) per day is not associated with higher risk of heart disease.1-2

Further, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) – a large study that followed close to half a million people for more than 12 years – found no association between eating red meat and any cause of death, including cancer or heart disease.3

The association between red meat and colon cancer is weak and could be related to other lifestyle factors. More importantly, after a thorough review of all the evidence, in 2018 WHO,5 and as a result *Health Canada,6 determined that there is not convincing evidence of a link btw fresh red meat and cancer. Canadians can continue to enjoy red meat as part of the new Eat Well Plate recommended by Canada’s Food Guide which includes a 1/4 plate with variety of protein foods including beef known for its’ high-quality protein, a top source of vitamin B12, bioavailable iron and zinc all for a modest number of calories.

Additionally, research over this time has uncovered some other interesting findings – namely that adults who ate red meat more often: (1) tended to eat vegetables more often;1 and (2) tended to have smaller waists and lower body weights.1 Further, it was found that eating some red meat was more beneficial for health than eating none.1

Saturated fat is a specific area of concern related to chronic disease. There are different dietary saturated fatty acids including lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid. There is emerging evidence to suggest that the health effects of saturated fats could vary depending on the food sources in which they are found.4 More research is required to determine whether risk of a cardiovascular event is influenced by the nutrients used to replace saturated fats (ie. Carbohydrates, monounsaturated fatty acids, or polyunsaturated fatty acids) the type of saturated fat, and/or the foods in which they are consumed.4

1 Kappeler R, Eicholzer M, and Rohrmann S. Meat consumption and diet quality and mortality in NHANES III. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2013; 67(6):598-606.
2 Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation 2010; 12 (21): 2271-83.
3 Rohrmann S et al. Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). BMC Medicine 2013; 11: 63 (e-pub).
4 Heart and Stroke Foundation: Saturated Fat Position Statement
5 World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. CUP report: colorectal cancer.
6 Health Canada/Food, Nutrients and Health: Interim Evidence Update 2018.