Current Atherosclerosis Reports

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 515–524

Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence

  • Renata Micha
  • Georgios Michas
  • Dariush Mozaffarian
Nutrition (BV Howard, Section Editor)

DOI: 10.1007/s11883-012-0282-8

Cite this article as:
Micha, R., Michas, G. & Mozaffarian, D. Curr Atheroscler Rep (2012) 14: 515. doi:10.1007/s11883-012-0282-8


Growing evidence suggests that effects of red meat consumption on coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes could vary depending on processing. We reviewed the evidence for effects of unprocessed (fresh/frozen) red and processed (using sodium/other preservatives) meat consumption on CHD and diabetes. In meta-analyses of prospective cohorts, higher risk of CHD is seen with processed meat consumption (RR per 50 g: 1.42, 95 %CI = 1.07–1.89), but a smaller increase or no risk is seen with unprocessed meat consumption. Differences in sodium content (~400 % higher in processed meat) appear to account for about two-thirds of this risk difference. In similar analyses, both unprocessed red and processed meat consumption are associated with incident diabetes, with higher risk per g of processed (RR per 50 g: 1.51, 95 %CI = 1.25–1.83) versus unprocessed (RR per 100 g: 1.19, 95 % CI = 1.04–1.37) meats. Contents of heme iron and dietary cholesterol may partly account for these associations. The overall findings suggest that neither unprocessed red nor processed meat consumption is beneficial for cardiometabolic health, and that clinical and public health guidance should especially prioritize reducing processed meat consumption.


Review Meat Red meat Processed meat Cardiovascular disease Diabetes 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renata Micha
    • 1
    • 2
  • Georgios Michas
    • 3
  • Dariush Mozaffarian
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Food Science and TechnologyUnit of Human Nutrition, Agricultural University of AthensAthensGreece
  3. 3.Department of Internal MedicineGeneral Hospital of KalamataKalamataGreece
  4. 4.Departments of Epidemiology and NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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