Total red meat intake of ≥0.5 servings/d does not negatively influence cardiovascular disease risk factors: a systemically searched meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):57-69. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.142521. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Background: Observational associations between red meat intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are inconsistent. There are limited comprehensive analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that investigate the effects of red meat consumption on CVD risk factors.

Objective: The purpose of this systematically searched meta-analysis was to assess the effects of consuming ≥0.5 or <0.5 servings of total red meat/d on CVD risk factors [blood total cholesterol (TC), LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, ratio of TC to HDL cholesterol (TC:HDL), and systolic and diastolic blood pressures (SBP and DBP, respectively)]. We hypothesized that the consumption of ≥0.5 servings of total red meat/d would have a negative effect on these CVD risk factors.

Design: Two researchers independently screened 945 studies from PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Scopus databases and extracted data from 24 qualified RCTs. Inclusion criteria were 1) RCT, 2) subjects aged ≥19 y, 3) consumption of ≥0.5 or <0.5 total red meat servings/d [35 g (1.25 ounces)], and 4) reporting ≥1 CVD risk factor. We performed an adjusted 2-factor nested ANOVA mixed-effects model procedure on the postintervention values of TC, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, TC:HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, SBP, and DBP; calculated overall effect sizes of change values; and used a repeated-measures ANOVA to assess pre- to postintervention changes.

Results: Red meat intake did not affect lipid-lipoprotein profiles or blood pressure values postintervention (P > 0.05) or changes over time [weighted mean difference (95% CI): -0.01 mmol/L (-0.08, 0.06 mmol/L), 0.02 mmol/L (-0.05, 0.08 mmol/L), 0.03 mmol/L (-0.01, 0.07 mmol/L), and 0.04 mmol/L (-0.02, 0.10 mmol/L); -0.08 mm Hg (-0.26, 0.11 mm Hg); and -1.0 mm Hg (-2.4, 0.78 mm Hg) and 0.1 mm Hg (-1.2, 1.5 mm Hg) for TC, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, TC:HDL cholesterol, SBP, and DBP, respectively]. Among all subjects, TC, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, TC:HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and DBP, but not SBP, decreased over time (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: The results from this systematically searched meta-analysis of RCTs support the idea that the consumption of ≥0.5 servings of total red meat/d does not influence blood lipids and lipoproteins or blood pressures.

Keywords: animal flesh; blood lipids; blood lipoproteins; blood pressure; diet; dietary guidance; meat; meat products.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Red Meat*
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol