Swapping red meat for high-quality plant-based food could reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 20 per cent, according to a study.
Existing studies that show inconsistent results often fail to compare red meat with similar protein and energy sources.
To address these problems, the researchers compared total, processed, and unprocessed red meat. They also estimated the effects of substituting other protein sources for red meat.
Swapping red meat for high-quality plant-based food could reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 20 per cent, according to a study
The study, based on a questionnaire of around 50,000 men, revealed that for every one serving per day, unprocessed red meat was linked with an 11 per cent higher risk of CHD and processed red meat a 15 per cent higher risk.
Total red meat was associated with a 12 per cent higher risk. This was noted after taking account of other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
One daily portion of mixed plant protein sources such as nuts, peas, beans, lentils and soy was linked with a 14 per cent lower risk of CHD compared with red meat. This risk was lower still – 18 per cent – among men over 65.
Swapping total red meat for whole grains and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, was also linked with lower CHD risk. Study author Dr Laila Al-Shaar, of Harvard University, said: 'This association was particularly strong among younger men, in whom the replacement of red meat with egg was associated with a 20 per cent lower risk of CHD.'
One daily portion of mixed plant protein sources such as nuts, peas, beans, lentils and soy was linked with a 14 per cent lower risk of CHD compared with red meat
Participants completed a detailed diet questionnaire in 1986 and every four years thereafter up to 2016, and provided information on their medical history and lifestyle. Medical records were used to track fatal and non-fatal CHD events over the 30-year period.
During this time, 4,456 CHD events were documented of which 1,860 resulted in death.
However, the researchers added that they cannot rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors could have influenced their results.
Dr Al-Shaar added: 'Participants were mainly white health professionals so the findings may not be more widely applicable.
'Nevertheless, this was a large study with repeated measures of diet during 30 years of follow-up, suggesting the findings withstand scrutiny.'