By NICHOLAS BAKALAR New York Times
Eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a new study, and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.
The analysis, published online Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine, used data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women who filled out questionnaires about health and diet from 1980 through 2006. There were 23,926 deaths in the group, including 5,910 from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 from cancer.
People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.
The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer.
If people in the study had eaten half as much meat, the researchers estimated, deaths in the group would have declined 9.3 percent in men and 7.6 percent in women.
Previous studies have linked red meat consumption and mortality, but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link.
“When you have these numbers in front of you, it’s pretty staggering,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard.
A version of this article appeared in print on March 13, 2012, on page D6 of the New York edition with the headline: Risks: More Red Meat, More Mortality.