New coalition will help hospitals nationwide provide plant-based food options for patients
The researchers carried out an analysis of the data pooled from 6 cohorts, including almost 30 000 participants in all. Some of them had been followed up for 30 years. The data in all cases came from self-reported food intake over the last year or month, charted by the participants according to a detailed proforma. The average age of the participants was 54 years, about 44% being men and 31% non-whites.
The data came from different study populations, so the researchers adjusted for several parameters to make it more homogeneous. They also corrected for multiple factors that could influence the health outcomes, such as exercise and smoking. After their analysis, they also carried out several sensitivity analyses. All these measures were intended to confirm that the data was correctly interpreted and the conclusions were sound. The findings
The current study shows that eating 2 servings of red or processed meat, or poultry, a week increased the risk of cardiovascular disease – disease of the heart and blood vessels – by 3% to 7%. There was no associated risk with fish intake, however.
Two or more servings of red or processed meat increased the risk of overall mortality by 4%, but this was not seen with fish or poultry.
The researchers are confident that their findings will stand up to scrutiny. Says investigator Victor Zhong, “Our study shows the link to cardiovascular disease and mortality was robust.”
The study has its limitations, of course. For one, the food data was gathered only once, at the beginning of the trial, which leaves out the possibility that food habits could have changed significantly over time. Secondly, cooking methods were not considered at all. However, it is known that fried chicken, especially when it is deep-fried, and fried fish, both push up the risk of chronic disease. These could have affected the risk of heart disease and mortality, but their impact cannot be evaluated from the present data. Implications
The researchers say the small increase in cardiovascular risk but not in mortality, with poultry, is seen but is not sufficient to recommend either increasing or decreasing poultry intake. The association could be due to the mode of cooking or because the skin is also consumed, and not because of the chicken meat itself.
In the light of these findings, Zhong says, “Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level.”
Fish intake was not related to any increased risk for either cardiovascular disease or mortality. Co-researcher Linda Van Horn says, “Fish, seafood and plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and legumes, including beans and peas, are excellent alternatives to meat and are under-consumed in the U.S.” Journal reference:
Zhong VW, Van Horn L, Greenland P, et al. Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 03, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.6969
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