Could eating less meat REALLY cut your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 ...

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Eating three fewer servings of red meat each week could slash your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, a controversial analysis has found.

Researchers have published the 'most up-to-date evidence on the topic', based on data from 61 studies involving more than four million people.

But the same team of scientists have warned the evidence was so flimsy that people should not worry and carry on eating red meat at their current levels. 

MailOnline has today sifted through the research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, to reveal what the scientists found eating less meat can do for your health.

Eating three fewer servings of red meat each week could slash your risk of several ailments, a controversial analysis has found. Researchers published the 'most up-to-date evidence on the topic', based on data from four million people. But the same scientists warned the evidence was so flimsy that people should not worry and carry on eating red meat at their current levels

Eating three fewer servings of red meat each week could slash your risk of several ailments, a controversial analysis has found. Researchers published the 'most up-to-date evidence on the topic', based on data from four million people. But the same scientists warned the evidence was so flimsy that people should not worry and carry on eating red meat at their current levels

Results showed eating three servings less of unprocessed red meat each week was linked to a seven per cent lower risk of ever developing cancer.

It means if 1,000 people curbed back on how much they consumed, there would be seven less cases of any form of the killer disease.

The biggest reduction was for gastric or stomach cancer. Data showed eating three less servings was linked to a 14 per cent lower risk of the disease.

The researchers calculated this would lead to two fewer cases of stomach cancer, if 1,000 people scaled back on how much meat they ate.

COULD EATING THREE LESS SERVINGS OF RED MEAT EACH WEEK SLASH YOUR RISK OF KILLER CONDITIONS? 

EVIDENCE: Researchers graded the evidence, based on the quality of the studies examined, imprecision and the chance of statistical bias

REAL-TERM RISK: The number of fewer cases that would be recorded if 1,000 people consumed three less servings of unprocessed red meat. * means the figure applies to the next 11 years, as opposed to a lifetime 

DISEASE 

HEART 

Heart disease

Stroke

Heart attack

Type 2 diabetes

Death 

CANCER 

All types

Oesophageal

Gastric

Colorectal

Pancreatic

Breast

Prostate 

Death 

LOWER RISK

 

5%

6%

7%

10%

10% 

 

7%

0%

14%

0%

1%

12%

+2%

7% 

EVIDENCE 

 

VERY LOW

LOW

VERY LOW

LOW

VERY LOW 

 

VERY LOW

VERY LOW

VERY LOW

LOW

LOW

LOW

LOW

LOW 

REAL-TERM RISK

 

-3*

-1*

-3*

-6*

-4*

 

-13

0

-2 

0

0

6

+1

WHAT DID HEALTH CHARITIES SAY ABOUT THE RESEARCH? 

Lauren Wiggins, from Bowel Cancer UK, said: 'This research shows that current government recommendations to limit eating red meat to three portions a week, still stand. 

'We know eating red and processed meat can increase your likelihood of developing bowel cancer. So it's important to cut down how much of this you're having.'

Cancer Research UK's Emma Shields said: 'Processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer – there's a mass of evidence that shows this. 

'This research came to the same conclusion, the main difference being the researchers' view that eating less meat doesn't help very much.' 

Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: 'Studies like this make it confusing to know if you should pick up your steak knife or leave it in the drawer. 

'How much red and processed meat we should be eating has been up for debate for decades, but our advice hasn't changed.

'Most of us could benefit from eating less meat and including more plant-based protein in our diets, such as lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.'

A similar reduction was seen for breast cancer (12 per cent), which would avoid six cases of the disease among a thousand people cutting back on meat.

Data also showed cutting back on unprocessed red meat was linked to a 10 per cent lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes in the next 11 years.

Consuming three less servings also cut the odds of heart disease by five per cent, as well as six per cent for stroke and seven per cent for a heart attack.

In real terms, it means there six less cases of type 2 diabetes among 1,000 people who scaled back on how much red meat they ate over 11 years. 

There would also be three less cases of heart disease or a heart attack, and one less stroke per the same amount of people and the same time frame.

Risk reductions were even greater in a review of studies that compared high and low intake of red and processed meat.  

Officials have for years tried to encourage diet changes – guidelines recommend people limit themselves to 2.5oz (70g) of red meat a day.

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