Women who eat a lot of red meat may be increasing their risk of developing heart disease, Harvard researchers report.
"This study is one of many showing a link between eating red meat, processed meat and full-fat dairy products, and heart disease," said Samantha Heller, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.
It seems obvious that people should reduce their intake of meat and dairy foods. "But there are many people who feel it is almost impossible to give up or limit butter, steak, ham and cheese," she said. "Americans are also concerned with getting enough protein. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] says that most Americans have plenty, if not a surplus, of protein in their diet."
If people looked at this as a matter of simple swaps, it may be easier to make some healthy changes, she added.
"So, instead of a ham-and-cheese sandwich for lunch, have a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich. Jump in the Meatless Monday trend, and have whole-grain pasta primavera for dinner on Monday. Make Sunday's chili vegetarian, with lots of vegetables and beans. Try a veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun for your cookout. Swap cheese and crackers for low-fat cheese and apple slices," Heller suggested.
The report is published in the Aug. 16 online edition of Circulation.
For the study, a team lead by Dr. Adam M. Bernstein, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, collected data on 84,136 women, aged 30 to 55, who took part in the Nurses' Health Study over 26 years, from 1980 to 2006.
Over that time, there were 2,210 nonfatal heart attacks and 952 deaths from heart disease, the researchers noted.
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SOURCE: Health Day