Many studies show that eating meat every day is associated with increased risk for heart disease, but until now we have had little data about the effects of eating meat less often than that. A new study from Cornell and Northwestern Universities followed 29,682 participants, average age 53.7, for 30 years and found that eating two servings per week of mammal meat or processed meat was associated with a seven percent increased risk of heart disease, two servings of poultry was associated with a four percent increased risk, and there was no increased risk from eating fish (JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb. 3, 2020). A serving size was approximately four ounces. Mammal meat includes beef, pork, lamb, veal and venison. Processed meats include ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef and other meats that have been smoked, cured, or preserved with salt or other preservatives.
Other studies show that mammal meat is associated with increased risk for heart attacks and arteriosclerosis (Circulation, April 22, 2019), but most studies fail to show that chicken increases risk for heart attacks (Br J Nutr, 2014;112(5):762–75). High-plant diets have been associated with reduced heart attack risk and a lowering of the bad LDL cholesterol (Int J Epidemiol, 2018;47(5):1603–12; Ann Nutr Metab, 2012;60(4):233–40).
You may recall recent headlines claiming that meat had not been reliably associated with risk for heart atttacks, but please re-read my report on the flaws in these very questionable and controversial studies: Meat IS Associated with Heart Attacks and Some Types of Cancer
More Data on Animal vs Plant Protein Sources
• A study from Loma Linda University showed that eating meat and chicken was associated with increased risk for heart disease, while the same amount of protein from plants, such as nuts and seeds, was associated with a reduction in heart disease (International Journal of Epidemiology, Oct 2018;47(5):1603–1612).
• The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study found that eating mammal protein increased heart attack risk while plant protein decreased risk (Circulation, Jun 1, 2018;11(6)).
• Increased intake of animal protein was associated with increased death rate from heart attacks (Clin Nutr, 2016; 35:496–506), and increased intake of plant protein was associated with reduced death from heart attacks ((JAMA Intern Med, 2016; 176:1453–1463).
To help prevent heart attacks, I believe that you should restrict mammal and processed meats, and include lots of plants in your diet. It is still controversial whether chicken or turkey increase risk for heart attacks, but I think it is wise to limit these foods. You can get plenty of protein from seafood, egg whites, beans, whole grains, nuts and other seeds. Since vitamin B12 is found only in animal products (and since your ability to absorb B12 diminishes with aging), see my article on Vitamin B12: One Pill You May Need
Also see: Red Meat, Neu5Gc and Risk for Cancer
Heart Attacks Again Linked to Red Meat