A new study has suggested that regular meat-eaters have a higher risk of contracting not just cancer but a wide range of illnesses.
According to a report by The Independent newspaper, a population-based study by BMC Medicine looked at the link between meat consumption and 25 common non-cancerous illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, joint disorder and pneumonia.
The report said the participants were considered regular meat eaters if they ate meat three times a week or more.
The report said: “Researchers from the University of Oxford monitored almost 475,000 UK adults for hospital admissions for the 25 common illnesses.
“Participants completed at least three surveys about their meat consumption over the course of around eight years.
“Those who ate meat regularly were most likely to be retired, white European men, or post-menopausal women, and were more likely to have higher Body Mass Index (BMI), smoke and consume alcohol, and consume less fruit and vegetables, fibre, and fish and more poultry meat, according to the study.
“The study found that those who regularly consume unprocessed red meat and processed meat were at a higher risk of ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia, diverticular disease, colon polyps and diabetes.
“A higher poultry meat intake was associated with higher risks of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, gastritis and duodenitis, diverticular disease, gallbladder disease and diabetes.”
Keren Papier, lead author of the study revealed that a higher BMI accounted for the increased risk in regular meat eaters.
She said: “However, higher consumption of unprocessed red meat alone was associated with a lower risk of Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA), as was a higher consumption of poultry meat.
“We have long known that unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption is likely to be carcinogenic and this research is the first to assess the risk of 25 non-cancerous health conditions in relation to meat intake in one study.
“Additional research is needed to evaluate whether the differences in risk we observed in relation to meat intake reflect causal relationships, and if so the extent to which these diseases could be prevented by decreasing meat consumption.
“However, the link between meat consumption and a lower risk of iron-deficiency anaemia indicates that non meat-eaters “need to be careful that they obtain enough iron, through dietary sources or supplements.
“One good way to enhance iron absorption of plant-based foods (e.g. lentils) is to combine these foods with good sources of vitamin C (e.g. peppers),” she added.