Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study

Nat Med. 2022 Oct;28(10):2075-2082. doi: 10.1038/s41591-022-01968-z. Epub 2022 Oct 10.


Characterizing the potential health effects of exposure to risk factors such as red meat consumption is essential to inform health policy and practice. Previous meta-analyses evaluating the effects of red meat intake have generated mixed findings and do not formally assess evidence strength. Here, we conducted a systematic review and implemented a meta-regression-relaxing conventional log-linearity assumptions and incorporating between-study heterogeneity-to evaluate the relationships between unprocessed red meat consumption and six potential health outcomes. We found weak evidence of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, we found no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke. We also found that while risk for the six outcomes in our analysis combined was minimized at 0 g unprocessed red meat intake per day, the 95% uncertainty interval that incorporated between-study heterogeneity was very wide: from 0-200 g d-1. While there is some evidence that eating unprocessed red meat is associated with increased risk of disease incidence and mortality, it is weak and insufficient to make stronger or more conclusive recommendations. More rigorous, well-powered research is needed to better understand and quantify the relationship between consumption of unprocessed red meat and chronic disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / etiology
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects
  • Red Meat* / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors