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Research suggests excess meat may shorten lifespan

A meat-rich diet could increase the risk for early death, new research suggests.

Finnish scientists gathered dietary and health data on 2,641 men ages 42-60, following them for an average of 22 years. Over the course of the study, 1,225 of them died.

Compared with men who ate less than 2.6 ounces, or 76 grams, of meat a day (red meat, white meat and organ meat combined), those who ate more than a half pound daily were 23% more likely to die. The study is in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Higher intakes of protein were not significantly associated with an increased risk for premature death, except among those with serious disease. And consumption of the proteins in fish, eggs, dairy food and plants did not affect mortality.

But, the researchers found, the higher the ratio of meat protein to plant protein, the greater the risk for early death.

The study controlled for dozens of demographic, lifestyle, health and dietary characteristics, including income, history of health problems and specific foods consumed.

“It isn’t necessary to completely stop eating meat,” said the senior author, Jyrki K. Virtanen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland. “But keeping it in moderation is important. Some people eat meat every day, and that’s not a good idea.”

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