Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – Eating two servings of unprocessed red meat, processed meat or poultry a week has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

A new study from researchers at Cornell University and Northwestern University found that eating two servings of red meat, unprocessed meat or poultry – but not fish – per week was linked to a 3 to 7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, eating two servings of unprocessed red meat or processed meat – but not poultry or fish – was associated with a 3% higher risk of all causes of death. 

“Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important dietary strategy to help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at population level,” said lead study author Victor Zhong, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, who did the research while he was a postdoctoral student at Northwestern.

The study found a 4% higher risk of cardiovascular disease for people who ate two servings per week of poultry, but the evidence so far is not sufficient to make a clear recommendation about poultry intake, Zhong said.

The researchers suggest dietary alternatives, such as fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein, to lessen one’s risk of heart disease and premature death.

“Our study findings support current dietary guidelines that recommend limiting processed meat and unprocessed red meat intake,” Zhong said. “People can get needed nutrients from various other foods. Take protein for example: people can choose egg whites, fish, legumes, whole grains and nuts to replace processed meat and unprocessed red meat.”

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Journal Link: JAMA Internal Medicine