Health Risks Associated with Meat Consumption: A Review of Epidemiological Studies

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2015;85(1-2):70-8. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000224.


Recent evidence from large prospective US and European cohort studies and from meta-analyses of epidemiological studies indicates that the long-term consumption of increasing amounts of red meat and particularly of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes, in both men and women. The association persists after inclusion of known confounding factors, such as age, race, BMI, history, smoking, blood pressure, lipids, physical activity and multiple nutritional parameters in multivariate analysis. The association has not always been noted with red meat, and it has been absent with white meat. There is evidence of several mechanisms for the observed adverse effects that might be involved, however, their individual role is not defined at present. It is concluded that recommendations for the consumption of unprocessed red meat and particularly of processed red meat should be more restrictive than existing recommendations. Restrictive recommendations should not be applied to subjects above about 70 years of age, as the studies quoted herein did not examine this age group, and the inclusion of sufficient protein supply (e. g. in the form of meat) is particularly important in the elderly.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; colon cancer; diabetes type 2; meat; mortality; poultry; processed meat; protein; red meat.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Poultry
  • Red Meat / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors