To investigate whether a high consumption of red or processed meat is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
The subjects were 517 men and 635 women, who were members of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, 1946 birth cohort. Assessment of diet was carried out at two time points 1989 and 1999 with outcome measures collected in 1999. Food intake data were recorded in 5-day diaries. Meat consumption was estimated by adding individual meat portions to the meat fractions of composite dishes.
There was no significant association between red or processed meat consumption in 1989 and 1999 and serum cholesterol concentrations and blood pressure measured in 1999. The combined intake of red and processed meat in 1999 had a significant positive association with blood pressure in men only. Red and processed meat intakes in 1989, separately and combined, had a significant positive association with waist circumference in 1999: a 10 g increase in red meat consumption accounted for a 0.3 cm increase in waist circumference; P=0.04 (men), 0.05 (women).
Consumption of red or processed meat assessed separately was not related to the major risk factors for CHD but contributed to increased waist circumference that has also been identified as a risk factor.