Red meat consumption: an overview of the risks and benefits

Meat Sci. 2010 Jan;84(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2009.08.029. Epub 2009 Aug 15.


Red meat is long established as an important dietary source of protein and essential nutrients including iron, zinc and vitamin B12, yet recent reports that its consumption may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and colon cancer have led to a negative perception of the role of red meat in health. The aim of this paper is to review existing literature for both the risks and benefits of red meat consumption, focusing on case-control and prospective studies. Despite many studies reporting an association between red meat and the risk of CVD and colon cancer, several methodological limitations and inconsistencies were identified which may impact on the validity of their findings. Overall, there is no strong evidence to support the recent conclusion from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report that red meat has a convincing role to play in colon cancer. A substantial amount of evidence supports the role of lean red meat as a positive moderator of lipid profiles with recent studies identifying it as a dietary source of the anti-inflammatory long chain (LC) n-3 PUFAs and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). In conclusion, moderate consumption of lean red meat as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to increase risk for CVD or colon cancer, but may positively influence nutrient intakes and fatty acid profiles, thereby impacting positively on long-term health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cattle
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Meat Products / adverse effects
  • Meat* / adverse effects
  • Meat* / analysis
  • Meat* / classification
  • Nutritive Value
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Characteristics
  • United Kingdom


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated