Is red meat really going to kill you? Behind the figures

Recent headlines would have you believe the red meat is going to kill you… within about 30 seconds.

Chicago Sun-Times – “Study: Read meat linked to risk of Premature death”

USA Today – Red meat linked to higher risk of premature death

The study, produced by the Harvard School of Public Health states that due to increased risk of cancer, heart disease etc, that you’d have an “increased risk of death of 13%”.

I’m pretty sure that everybody has a 100% “risk” of death. But what the paper is actually saying, is that given two identical individuals, if one ate red meat, they would have a 13% increased risk of death.

You might imagine then, that this means they are likely to kick the bucket in a mere matter of seconds. But in real terms, if you had two identical 40 year old’s, with identical life styles; the one who ate meat each and every day would shorten their life by ONE YEAR.

Lets just make that clear. If you eat a cow a day.. you are likely to die age 79. Whilst the vegetarian next door will get an extra 365 days.

You could also think of it this way, for every burger you ate; in that day, you’d loose 30 minutes of life as a result. I wonder if you have alternate days you’d get an extra 6 months?


This is actually only based upon the idea that the apparent correlation between red meat and increased likelihood of heart disease and cancer are true. Red meat intake is “associated” in the study with the consumption of alcohol and other such vices. If, like me, you eat meat but neither smoke nor drink; what’s the impact on your life expectancy going to be?

In truth, they don’t know.

Lets be honest. Exercise, healthy greens and cut back (not cut out) on the fat are the way to go. But cut out red meat? I’d take that with a pinch of salt. But not a very bit touch of salt, or your arteries are likely to explode (if we are to believe the UK Government).



  1. I always think it’s best to take government health advice with a pinch of salt and just try your best to eat a balanced healthy diet with a dose of exercise. According to the media toast, diet coke, meat and other things will give you cancer – but I don’t think the occassional diet coke is really going to kill me off any time soon!

    • Interestingly, stress also can cause cancer. So worrying about what can or cannot give you cancer, can give you cancer.

      But as with all studies that use a percentage as an indicator, it’s usually best to assume the actual figures are very small. Especially when it comes to incidences of disease rates.

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