– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Ditching one portion of red meat a day and replacing it with a fillet of fish could reduce the risk of early death, researchers report.
A major study by experts at Harvard University has found that swapping just one portion of red meat a day – such as a 3oz (85 gram) steak or a serving of spaghetti bolognese – for a fillet of fish, cuts the risk of dying over the next eight years by 17 per cent.
Replacing the red meat with a skinless piece of chicken or vegetables slashes the risk by 10 per cent; eggs by eight per cent; and wholegrains by 12 per cent.
And cutting out processed meat has even greater benefits, the research team discovered.
Having a piece of fish instead of two slices of bacon, a single sausage or a daily ham sandwich cuts mortality by 25 per cent, with chicken by 17 per cent and veg by 18 per cent.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, examined the dietary habits of more than 81,000 people in the United States.
Changes to participants’ eating habits were tracked over eight years, and then they were monitored for another eight years to see how this impacted their health.
The results showed that people who increased their red and processed meat intake by at least half a serving per day over the initial study had a 10 per cent higher risk of dying in the subsequent eight-year period.
But those who dropped their intake of meat, and instead upped their consumption of leaner protein such as chicken, fish or eggs, saw their risk of death fall significantly.
Researchers suggested that ditching red meat in favour of a plant-based diet could extend life expectancy.
“These findings suggest that a change in protein source or eating plant-based foods such as vegetables or whole grains can improve longevity,” they wrote.
Study leader Professor Frank Hu also suggested a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fish, beans and vegetables may be the best way of extending life.
“To improve both human health and environmental sustainability, it is important to adopt a Mediterranean-style or other diet that emphasises healthy plant foods,” he wrote.