According to a new study, health benefits from not eating meat are rather small

According to a new study, health benefits from not eating meat are rather small

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Researchers think: No need to do without red meat

In recent years, numerous scientific studies have concluded that the consumption of red and processed meat is associated with an increased health risk and significantly reduces life expectancy. But an international team of researchers is now reporting that the health benefits of avoiding meat are rather small.

According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), a weekly amount of meat and sausages from 300 to 600 grams is sufficient for adults to eat fully. But: "If you eat a lot of red meat and sausage, you have a higher risk of colon cancer," warn the experts. In fact, numerous scientific studies have shown that meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) also classified the consumption of red meat as "probably carcinogenic". Processed meat is even considered to be "carcinogenic". But an international team of researchers is now reporting that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat because a reduction has little impact on health.

Linked to the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer

According to a statement, researchers from McMaster University and Dalhousie University in Canada, together with colleagues from other countries, have systematically reviewed the information provided so far and recommend that most adults should continue to eat their current amounts of red and processed meat. Her results were published in the specialist magazine "Annals of Internal Medicine".

The scientists carried out four systematic reviews, which focused on randomized controlled and observational studies, and the effects of red meat and processed meat consumption on cardiometabolic (diseases that affect the cardiovascular system and / or metabolic processes) and cancer-related consequences examined.

In a review of twelve studies involving 54,000 people, the researchers found no statistically significant or important connection between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer. And in three systematic reviews of cohort studies using data from millions of people, the risk for people who ate three servings less red or processed meat a week was reduced very little.

The authors also conducted a fifth systematic review, which looked at people's attitudes and health-related values ​​regarding the consumption of red and processed meat. They found that people eat meat because they consider it healthy, like the taste, and are reluctant to change their diet.

Contradiction to common nutritional recommendations

McMaster professor Gordon Guyatt noted that the 14-member research group from seven countries used a rigorous, systematic review method. “The worldwide interest in nutrition and especially in red meat is great. People need to be able to make decisions about their own diet based on the best information available, ”said the expert.

Bradley C. Johnston, corresponding author of the reviews, said the research team is aware that its work contradicts many current nutritional guidelines. "This is not just another study on red and processed meat, but a series of systematic, high-quality reviews that lead to recommendations that we believe to be far more transparent, robust, and reliable," said Johnston, who is at McMaster as well also works at Dalhousie University.

Animal and environmental protection were not taken into account

He added: "We have focused solely on health outcomes, and our recommendations have not taken animal welfare or environmental concerns into account."
Johnston also said that the researchers agree with the concerns about animal welfare and the environment, and that some members of the team have stopped or reduced their personal consumption of red and processed meat for these reasons.

An accompanying editorial by authors from the Indiana University School of Medicine states: “This is certainly controversial, but is based on the most extensive review of the evidence to date. Since this review included everything, it will be difficult for those wishing to dispute this to find appropriate evidence to argue with. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • McMaster University: No need to cut down red and processed meat, says study, (accessed: October 1, 2019), McMaster University
  • Annals of Internal Medicine: Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium, (accessed: October 1, 2019), Annals of Internal Medicine
  • German Society for Nutrition (DGE): Eat and drink whole foods according to the 10 rules of the DGE, (accessed: October 1, 2019), German Society for Nutrition (DGE)

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