Dr Keren Papier publishes largest review to date on the link between meat intake and risk of heart disease

keren papier head and shoulders shot, smiling leant against a glass window.

St Cross Postdoctoral Associate Dr Keren Papier, Nutritional Epidemiologist within the Nuffield Department of Population Health, is co-lead author of a new paper focused on the link between unprocessed red and processed meat consumption and the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD). The study has been published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

The research team has conducted the largest systematic review and meta-analysis of the prospective evidence to date, including thirteen cohort studies involving over 1.4 million people. The study participants completed detailed dietary assessments, and their health was tracked for up to 30 years.

The present paper indicates that each 50 g/day higher intake of processed meat (e.g. bacon, ham, and sausages) increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 18%, whilst each 50 g/day higher intake of unprocessed red meat (such as beef, lamb and pork) increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 9%. According to the study’s findings, there is no clear link between eating poultry (such as chicken and turkey) and an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The results might be explained by the high content of saturated fat in red meat, and of sodium (salt) in processed meat. High intakes of saturated fat increase levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, whilst excess salt consumption raises blood pressure. Both LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure are well-established risk factors for coronary heart disease.

Dr Keren Papier's research focuses on associations of diet (particularly meat), lifestyle, and other health factors (e.g. biomarkers and anthropometry) with disease.