Processed red meat linked to metabolic syndrome: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Red meat, Nutrition, Metabolic syndrome

Consumption of high levels of processed red meat is associated with higher risks of developing metabolic syndrome, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, ​suggests that higher consumption of red meats, especially processed red meat, could double the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MetS).

The authors stated that the new research is “the first that prospectively demonstrates a higher incidence of MetS in those subjects consuming higher amounts of red meat”

“This is relevant because this condition has been considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease,”​ added the researchers, led by Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvadó from the​Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain.

Risk factors

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health risk factors including raised blood sugar levels, excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and blood fat disorders such as high triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol.

According to the American Heart Association, over 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome – defined as having at least three of the above mentioned conditions.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) affects around 25 per cent of the population in the developed world, and is considered an important public health problem.

Several previous research studies have associated red meat, processed red meat with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and central obesity, all of which are the features of MetS.

The authors noted that the potential link between processed red meat consumption and MetS has never been prospectively investigated.

The new study aimed to assess the relationship between red meat consumption and the prevalence or incidence of the metabolic syndrome and its components.

Direct association

The results revealed a direct association between red processed meat consumption and the risk of the MetS.

After one year, people in the highest risk group for MetS had twice the risk of having the condition compared to those individuals in the lowest risk group.

When red meat and processed red meat was evaluated separately, processed red meat consumption was significantly associated with a higher risk of having the MetS, reported the authors.

The mechanisms to explain the negative relationship between red meat consumption and the risk of metabolic syndrome are not well understood, noted the researchers, saying that some authors suggest that the link might be because red meat is a source of saturated fatty acids and iron – that could have negative impacts on health if consumed in high quantities.


The majority research into red mead consumption has focussed on excessive intakes. A balanced diet – including meat – is promoted by all public health agencies.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) last year suggested that red meat packs should carry labels advising people to consume no more than three portions a week, saying that people should not stop eating meat altogether – rather, they should reduce portions or eat it less often.

Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2010.06.011
“Association between red meat consumption and metabolic syndrome in a Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular risk: Cross-sectional and 1-year follow-up assessment”
Authors: N. Babio, M. Sorlí, M. Bulló, et al.

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