By Ben Spencer Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail
Published: 23:47 BST, 12 June 2019 | Updated: 23:47 BST, 12 June 2019
Cutting down on meat and replacing it with fish or chicken could add years to your life, a major study suggests.
Swapping just one portion of red meat a day – such as a 3oz steak or a serving of spaghetti bolognese – for a fillet of fish cuts the risk of dying over the next eight years by 17 per cent.
Replacing it with skinless chicken or vegetables slashes the risk by 10 per cent, eggs by 8 per cent and wholegrains by 12 per cent.
Cutting out processed meat has even greater benefits, the Harvard University research team found.
Replacing two slices of bacon, a single sausage or a daily ham sandwich with fish cuts mortality by 25 per cent, with chicken by 17 per cent and veg by 18 per cent.
Eating red and processed meat increases a person's risk of an earlier death (stock)
The study, published last night in the British Medical Journal, examined the dietary habits of more than 81,000 people in the US.
Changes to participants’ eating habits were tracked over eight years, and then they were monitored for another eight years to see how this impacted their health.
The results showed that people who increased their red and processed meat intake by at least half a serving per day over the eight years had a 10 per cent higher risk of dying in the subsequent eight-year period.
But those who dropped their intake of meat - and instead upped their consumption of leaner protein such as chicken, fish or eggs - saw their risk of death fall.
Previous studies have shown that red and processed meat is linked to an increased risk of type two diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Red meat - such as beef, lamb and pork - and processed meat - like bacon, sausages and charcuterie - have been linked to health complications.
The NHS therefore recommends adults reduce their intake to 70g a day and do not exceed 90g.
The American Institute for Cancer Research advises we consume no more than three portions of red meat a week.
It also urges us to 'avoid' processed meats.
Processed meat often contains nitrogen-based preservatives that stop it going off while being transported or stored.
These preservatives have been linked to both bowel and stomach cancer.
When red meat is digested, the pigment haem gets broken down in our gut to form chemicals called N-nitroso compounds.
These compounds have been found to damage the DNA of cells that line our digestive tract, which could trigger cancer.
Our body may also react to this damage by making cells divide more rapidly to replace those that are lost.
This 'extra' cell division may