Red meat consumption and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: results from the UK Biobank study

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Aug;61(5):2543-2553. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-02807-0. Epub 2022 Feb 27.


Purpose: To investigate the prospective associations between red meat consumption and all-cause and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) mortality, and to assess the modification effects of lifestyle and genetic risk factors.

Methods: 180,642 individuals free of CVD or cancer were enrolled from 2006 to 2010 and followed up to 2018 in the UK Biobank. Information on demographics, lifestyles, and medical history was collected through a baseline touchscreen questionnaire. The information on diet was collected through a single touchscreen food-frequency questionnaire. A total of ten single-nucleotide polymorphisms were used to calculate the genetic risk score (GRS) of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a gut microbiota metabolite from red meat. Adjusted Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to assess the association of red meat consumption with mortality.

Results: We documented 3596 deaths [655 CVD deaths, 285 coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths, and 149 stroke deaths] during median 8.6 years of follow-up. Compared with the lowest red meat intake (< 1.5 times/week), the highest red meat intake (≥ 3.0 times/week) was associated with a 20%, 53%, and 101% elevated risk for CVD, CHD, and stroke mortality (P for trend = 0.04, 0.007, and 0.02, respectively), but not all-cause mortality. We found that the associations between red meat intake and mortality were not modified by dietary and lifestyle factors, as well as TMAO GRS. In addition, substitution analyses showed that a decrease in red meat consumption and an increase in the consumption of poultry or cereal was significantly associated with 9%-16% lower CVD or CHD mortality risk.

Conclusion: Our results indicated that red meat consumption was associated with higher risks of CVD, CHD, and stroke mortality, and the associations were not modified by lifestyle and genetic risk factors. Replacing red meat by poultry or cereal was related to lower risks of CVD and CHD mortality.

Keywords: Effect modification; Mortality; Prospective cohort study; Red meat; Substitution analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease*
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects
  • Poultry
  • Prospective Studies
  • Red Meat* / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology