The findings showed the steepest rise in mortality rate at the smallest increase in intake of meat, particularly red or processed meat.
A decreased risk of 25 per cent to nearly 50 per cent of all-cause mortality for very low meat intake compared with higher meat intake was found. In addition, the researchers also found a 3.6-year increase in life expectancy for those on a vegetarian diet for more than 17 years, compared to short-term vegetarians.
“This clinical-based evidence can assist physicians in counselling patients about the important role diet plays, leading to improved preventive care, a key consideration in the osteopathic philosophy of medicine,” said Brookshield Laurent, assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in the US.
“This data reinforces what we have known for so long —your diet has great potential to harm or heal,” Laurent added.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the researchers conducted a review of six large-scale studies involving more than 1.5 million with a goal of giving primary care physicians evidence-based guidance about whether they should discourage patients from eating meat.
They followed people over 5.5 to 28 years and considered the association of processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, salami, hot dogs and ham) and unprocessed red meat (including uncured, unsalted beef, pork, lamb or game).
Physicians should advise patients to limit animal products when possible and consume more plants than meat, they suggested.