Red meat seems to be in the spotlight again, and unfortunately for meat-lovers, it isn’t so positive. According to the Nurses' Health Study II, higher red meat intake in early adulthood may be a risk factor for breast cancer.
After following more than 88,000 women for 20 years, researchers found that those who ate one and a half daily servings of unprocessed red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed red meat (hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami, and bologna) had a 22 percent higher risk of breast cancer than those who ate one serving a week. Every additional daily serving increased risk 13 percent.
On the flip side substituting (rather than just increasing) one serving per day for legumes, nuts, poultry, or fish could lower the risk by 14 percent.
The problem with these types of studies is that they strictly rely on an individual’s ability to complete information on their daily dietary intake that is 100 percent truthful and accurate. I am not saying that people deliberately complete them incorrectly, but unfortunately human error sometimes prevails. Also, since it was an observational study, perhaps there are other non-dietary factors that have not been considered. Per the authors, “we still could not rule out the possibility that other unmeasured or inadequately measured factors have confounded the true association."
In any event, I do think this study reminds us that we should be consuming a well-balanced, varied diet. You should never put all your eggs (or in this case red meat) in one basket. Definitely make sure to include fish, poultry, nuts, and legumes in your diet, and eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Try a “meatless” meal at least one time per week if not more. And most importantly: Start today.