Warm days have arrived in many places and with that comes outdoor grilling — a habit that often involves burgers and steaks, at least in the US. It’s no secret that red meat has been linked to a reduction in heart health, but past research on the topic hasn’t been entirely consistent. Here to help settle the matter is a new study that ‘strengthens’ the link between eating too much red meat and hurting your heart.
The new study — which is observational in nature — involved UK Biobank data on around 20,000 people, including their self-reported dietary habits. The participants had their heart health evaluated using multiple techniques designed to assess things like heart function, pumping ability, and blood vessel elasticity.
The study adjusted the data with mind to the other potentially influencing factors on heart health, such as BMI and smoking status. With the adjustment, the researchers found that red meat consumption, as well as eating processed meats, was linked with poorer overall heart health.
In comparison to people who ate oily fish, which was linked to improved heart function, the participants who ate greater quantities of red meat were found to have stiffer arteries, smaller heart ventricles, and worse heart function. The researchers note that while things like obesity and high cholesterol can play a role in red meat’s negative association, those factors don’t entirely explain it.
The study’s author Dr. Zahra Raisi-Estabragh explained:
It has been suggested that these factors could be the reason for the observed relationship between meat and heart disease. For example, it is possible that greater red meat intake leads to raised blood cholesterol and this in turn causes heart disease. Our study suggests that these four factors do play a role in the links between meat intake and heart health, but they are not the full story […] This was an observational study and causation cannot be assumed. But in general, it seems sensible to limit intake of red and processed meat for heart health reasons.