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Why Worry About Red Meat? continued...

And cooking meat, including red meat and chicken, at high temperatures, by grilling or broiling it, for example, is known to generate chemicals linked to cancer.

Still, the study does not prove that red meat is directly harmful to health. It could be that people who eat lots of red meat are just also more likely to engage in other behaviors that may shorten their lives.

Indeed, researchers note that people in the study who ate a lot of red meat were less likely to exercise and were more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and be overweight than people who didn’t eat as much red meat.

Knowing that, however, researchers were able to adjust their data to try to account for the influence of those other unhealthy behaviors.

The study echoes previous research which has also linked diets high in red meat to a shorter life span.

In 2009, a study by the National Cancer Institute found that people who ate the equivalent of a quarter-pound burger or small steak each day had about a 30% greater risk of dying over 10 years than people who only ate red meat occasionally.

High red meat consumption has also been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

"The notion that eating meat might be bad for us is tough to swallow for a generation that has drunk deep of the 'low carb' Kool-Aid!” David L. Katz, MD, MPH, founder and director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn., says in an email to WebMD.

But Katz says the evidence clearly shows that more is not better when it comes to red meat.

“Eating 'more' meat means eating a lower proportion of calories from plants -- vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains -- which are decisively associated with better health," he says.

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