(HealthDay News) — Increases in red meat consumption over eight years are associated with an increased mortality risk during the subsequent eight years, according to a study published online June 12 in The BMJ.

Yan Zheng, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Fudan University in Shanghai, and colleagues examined the correlation of changes in red meat consumption with total and cause-specific mortality in women and men in two prospective cohort studies. Data were included for 53,553 women and 27,916 men without cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline.

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The researchers identified 14,019 deaths during 1.2 million person-years of follow-up. Among women and men, increases in red meat consumption over eight years correlated with higher mortality risk in the subsequent eight years. Mortality risk was significantly higher with an increase in total red meat consumption of at least half a serving per day (pooled hazard ratio, 1.10); for processed and unprocessed red meat consumption, the increases in mortality risk were 13 and 9 percent, respectively. No correlation was noted between a decrease in consumption of processed or unprocessed red meat of at least half a serving per day and mortality risk. Across subgroups defined by age, physical activity, dietary quality, smoking status, or alcohol consumption, the correlation between red meat consumption and mortality risk was consistent.

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“Our analysis provides further evidence to support the replacement of red and processed meat consumption with healthy alternative food choices,” the authors write.

Research support from the California Walnut Commission, Metagenics, and Standard Process was reported.

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