Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Eating meat -- particularly red meat -- may increase a person's risk for heart disease, at least slightly, a new study suggests.
In research published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, processed meat consumption increased heart disease risk by nearly 2 percent, while unprocessed red meat appeared to increase risk by less than 1 percent.
The findings contradict those of a controversial study published in November in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Controversies have been escalated by the publication of the 'new dietary guideline' in Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2019, recommending continuing current unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption," Victor Wenze Zhong, PhD, co-author of the new study and an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, told UPI.
"This new guideline recommendation contradicts with existing dietary guidelines that recommend low or no intake of unprocessed red meat and processed meat for preventing chronic diseases," Zhong said. "Our study findings support current dietary guidelines that recommend limiting processed meat and unprocessed red meat intake, which applies to the general public."
Zhong and his colleagues reviewed the dietary data of nearly 30,000 American adults -- most in their mid-50s -- over a 19-year period. They also looked at the incidence of various forms of heart disease in the study population, including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure, as well as deaths caused by these conditions.
In addition to the slightly increased risk for heart disease associated with meat consumption, eating poultry also resulted in a small elevated risk -- just over 1 percent. Eating fish had no impact on heart disease risk, the authors found.
Notably, there was no significant difference in heart disease risk associated the consumption of processed versus un-processed meat.
Zhong noted that the increased health risk associated with eating these animal protein foods, specifically meat and unprocessed red meat, is small -- until you consider how people actually eat.
"Most people eat meat, poultry and fish on a weekly or daily basis, and this eating behavior is modifiable," Zhong said. "Limiting or stopping eating unprocessed red meat and processed meat can be a wise dietary behavior. People can choose a variety of healthier foods to replace unprocessed red meat and processed meat such as egg whites, fish, seafood, plant-based sources of protein -- nuts, legumes and whole grains -- and fruits and vegetables."