Meat means trouble

| Post published on March 22, 2022
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Animal fat

Saturated fat from meat is worse than from other foods

We know that red and processed meats are linked to cancer. Now, two new studies suggest that saturated fat in them may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke more than fat in plant foods.

A UK study, following over 114,000 people for nearly nine years, found that those who got more of their energy from meat than other foods also had a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Study author Dr Rebecca Kelly, from the University of Oxford, said: “We found that saturated fat from meat may be associated with a higher risk than other food sources – in part because those consuming large amounts of meat also had a higher body mass index (BMI) than low consumers.”

Eating higher amounts animal fat also increased the risk of stroke, while vegetable and polyunsaturated fat lowered it, in a 27-year study of over 117,000 US health care professionals. This research, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021, found that those eating high amounts of fat from meat had a 16 per cent higher risk of stroke compared to those eating the least. Those eating the most vegetable and polyunsaturated fat had a 12 per cent lower stroke risk compared to those eating the least.

Lead author, Dr Fenglei Wang, from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Our findings indicate the type of fat and different food sources of fat are more important than the total amount of dietary fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease including stroke.”


Kelly R, Tong T, Guasch-Ferre M et al. 2021. Associations between saturated fatty acids from different dietary sources and cardiovascular disease risk in 114,285 UK Biobank study participants. European Heart Journal. Volume 42, issue Supplement 1.

Vegetable fat may decrease stroke risk, while animal fat increases it. American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021, Presentation RF160. 

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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