High red meat intake and all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality: is the risk modified by fruit and vegetable intake?

Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Oct;104(4):1137-1143. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.135335. Epub 2016 Aug 24.


Background: High red meat consumption is associated with a shorter survival and higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and all-cause mortality. Fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption is associated with a longer survival and lower mortality risk. Whether high FV consumption can counterbalance the negative impact of high red meat consumption is unknown.

Objective: We evaluated 2 large prospective cohorts of Swedish men and women (the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men) to determine whether the association between red meat consumption and the risk of all-cause, CVD, and cancer-specific mortality differs across amounts of FV intake.

Design: The study population included 74,645 Swedish men and women. Red meat and FV consumption were assessed through a self-administered questionnaire. We estimated HRs of all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality according to quintiles of total red meat consumption. We next investigated possible interactions between red meat and FV consumption and evaluated the dose-response associations at low, medium, and high FV intake.

Results: Compared with participants in the lowest quintile of total red meat consumption, those in the highest quintile had a 21% increased risk of all-cause mortality (HR: 1.21; 95% CI: 1.13, 1.29), a 29% increased risk of CVD mortality (HR: 1.29; 95% CI: 1.14, 1.46), and no increase in the risk of cancer mortality (HR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.88, 1.43). Results were remarkably similar across amounts of FV consumption, and no interaction between red meat and FV consumption was detected.

Conclusion: High intakes of red meat were associated with a higher risk of all-cause and CVD mortality. The increased risks were consistently observed in participants with low, medium, and high FV consumption. The Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men were registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01127698 and NCT01127711, respectively.

Keywords: effect modification; fruit; interaction; red meat; vegetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Red Meat / adverse effects*
  • Sweden
  • Vegetables*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01127698
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01127711