1. Consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat was associated with an elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
2. Compared to red meat, consumption of plant protein sources and dairy were associated with lower risk of CHD.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Red meat consumption is widely recognized as a predictor for numerous chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease (CHD). However, some studies have shown no increase in risk with red meat consumption, which could be due to not distinguishing between processed and unprocessed red meat, and studying populations where the baseline comparison foods also have elevated risk for disease. The current prospective cohort study investigated the risk of CHD for total, processed, and unprocessed red meat consumption, as well as the effects of replacing red meat with alternative energy sources. The study population came from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (which lasted from 1986 to 2016), consisting of male health professionals in the US aged 40-75. Food questionnaires were submitted by participants every four years. From this cohort, data from 43 272 men with no cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline were chosen for the current study. Overall, the results showed an elevated risk of CHD for all categories of red meat. For one serving per day, the hazards ratios and 95% CI were 1.12 (1.06-1.18), 1.15 (1.06-1.25), and 1.11 (1.02-1.21) for total, processed, and unprocessed red meat respectively. Compared to total red meat, the CHD risk was lower for consumption of plant protein sources, such as nuts and legumes (HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80-0.93). Furthermore, both high-fat and low-fat dairy products had lower risks when compared to total red meat (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.82-0.94 for high-fat dairy). Consumption of eggs had lower risk compared to processed red meat (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.76-0.99). In conclusion, CHD risk is elevated with consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat, and alternative energy sources such as plant proteins, dairy, or eggs can lower CHD risk relative to red meat consumption.
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