Study advises college students to watch red meat consumption

Jodi Abazoski and Jodi Abazoski

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently released a study linking red meat consumption and mortality rates.

The group, led by epidemiologist Frank Hu, concluded that not only does excessive consumption of red meat – and especially processed red meat – lead to health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but for every extra ounce of red meat eaten above the recommended amount, mortality rates for the consumer increases by 12 percent.

Mary Jon Ludy, an assistant professor at Family and Consumer Sciences, is familiar with HSPH’s practices but has not read Hu’s study. She said that typically the school conducts studies on a large scale over a period of many years.

This is the case with Hu’s study that collected data from more than 110,000 people over 20 years old and up to 28 years, according to the HSPH website.

The study shows the correlation between mortality rates and red meat consumption, which Ludy said does not necessarily point to causation.

“You can’t say with those studies that it was red meat that caused it, but you just know that people who consume red meat statistically are at a higher risk (of mortality),” Ludy said.

However, she said there is undoubtedly a statistical relationship between eating red meat and experiencing various health issues, she said.

“It tends to be a higher saturated fat food, it tends to be a higher cholesterol food and if you have too much of those food components it can leave plaque in your arteries,” Ludy said.

Initial plaque buildup starts at the age of two, she said.

Some students still didn’t find the results of the study to be of extreme importance to them.

Chad Rex, a sophomore computer science major, said that he eats red meat “more often than not” and was unaware of the health issues recorded in the study.

“I’ve never really heard about (the dangers) so I never thought to be concerned about it,” Rex said. “Right now, I feel like if I portion control my meals, I’m healthy so I guess it’s not a big factor to me.”

Ludy said that students looking for more information on how red meat can affect their diet should go to reliable sources such as the American Heart Association.

There are also resources on campus.

“We have a general nutrition class, FN 2070, and that class counts as a natural science elective,” she said.

For Ludy, the take home point for students and staff from this study and ones like it is not that red meat is all bad but that it should be consumed in moderation. She said that the suggested intake is 18 oz a week or the size of a “deck of cards everyday.”

University student’s primary concern in regards to their diet seems to be weight, according to Daria Blachowski-Dreyer, associate director of Operations and Wellness for BGSU Dining.

Blachowski-Dreyer said that dining services offers vegetarian and vegan options for health-conscious students and tries to “create menus that have enough variety to encompass what students are looking for, be it flavor profiles or nutritional balance.”

Ludy suggests choosing leaner meats such as chicken, turkey or fish. Although, when not eating red meats it is still important to be selective, she said.

“When you’re making choices regarding meats, one thing is that it’s probably not the best idea to get them processed, so if you’re thinking about hot dogs, sausages — they’re just sort of ‘sometimes’ foods — but when you’re thinking about the meats you want to consume on a regular basis you want them to be leaner.”