In gastronomy, red meat is darker-colored meat, as contrasted with white meat. The exact definition varies by time, place, and culture, but the meat from adult mammals such as cows, sheep, and horses is invariably considered red, while chicken and rabbit meat is invariably considered white. The meat of young mammals such as milk-fed veal calves, sheep, and pigs is traditionally considered white; while the meat of duck and goose is considered red.Game is sometimes put in a separate category altogether. Veal calves is traditionally a red meat if it is naturally fed (French: viandes noires — "black meats").
The old determinant of the nutritional definition of the color of meat is the concentration of myoglobin. The white meat of chicken has under 0.05%; pork and veal have 0.1–0.3%; young beef has 0.4–1.0%; and old beef has 1.5–2.0%.
According to the USDA all meats obtained from livestock (i.e., from mammals) are red meats because they contain more myoglobin than chicken or fish.
Red meat contains small amounts of vitamin D. The liver contains much higher quantities than other parts of the animal.
The 1992 edition of the USDA food guide pyramid has been criticized for not distinguishing between red meat and other types of meat. The 2005 edition, MyPyramid, recommends lean forms of red meat.
Red meat is not a uniform product; its health effects can vary based on fat content, processing and preparation. Processed red meat is strongly linked to higher mortality, mainly due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Studies of unprocessed red meat are more recent, and have so far produced mixed results. A 2010 Harvard University study covering over one million people, studied the effect of fresh (unprocessed) versus processed red meat and found processed meat to have significant health risks, but no statistically significant effect for unprocessed red meat. A massive study conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition and published in 2013 which followed over 400,000 subjects showed increased mortality among subjects that consumed processed meat regularly, but no effect for unprocessed red meat. In contrast, a 2012 study of mainly non-Hispanic white Americans linked unprocessed red meat to an increase in mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A 2011 study of 17,000 individuals found that people consuming the most grilled and well-done meat had a 56 and 59% higher rate of cancer.
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There is suggestive evidence that red meat intake increases the risk of oesophageal, lung, pancreatic and endometrial cancer. As a result, WCRF recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, "very little, if any of which to be processed."
The consensus on the role of red meat consumption to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases has changed in recent years. Studies that differentiate between processed and fresh red meat have failed to find a link between unprocessed red meat consumption and heart disease. A major Harvard University meta-study  in 2010 involving over one million people who ate meat found that only processed meat had an adverse risk in relation to coronary heart disease. The study suggests that the "differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats."
A study suggests that eating 50g (1.75 oz) of processed meat per day increases risk of coronary heart disease by 42%, and diabetes by 19%. Equivalent levels of fat, including saturated fats, in unprocessed red meat (even when eating twice as much per day) did not show any deleterious effects, leading the researchers to suggest that "differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats."
Those that eat more than 8 servings of red meat per month are 4.9 times more likely to have cardiac events than those eating less than four servings per month.
A 21-year follow up of about thirty thousand Seventh-day Adventists (adventists are known for presenting a "health message" that recommends vegetarianism) found that people who ate red meat daily were 60% more likely to die of heart disease than those who ate red meat less than once per week.
The risk of coronary disease due to high cholesterol can be mitigated by switching to a leaner red meat. According to one study, funded by the beef producers advocacy group, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, eating lean meat (both red and white) produced nearly identical cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in both groups.
A 2009 study by the National Cancer Institute found a correlation between the consumption of red meat and increased mortality from cardiovascular diseases, as well as increased mortality from all causes. This study has been criticized for using an improperly validated food frequency questionnaire, which has been shown to have low levels of accuracy.
One study estimated that “substitutions of one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy, and whole grains per day for one serving of red meat per day were associated with a 16–35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes”.
The Diogenes project used data from ninety thousand men and women over about seven years and found that "higher intake of total protein, and protein from animal sources was associated with subsequent weight gain for both genders, strongest among women, and the association was mainly attributable to protein from red and processed meat and poultry rather than from fish and dairy sources. There was no overall association between intake of plant protein and subsequent changes in weight." They also found an association between red meat consumption and increased waist circumference.
A 1998 survey of about five thousand vegetarian and non-vegetarian people found that vegetarians had about 30% lower BMIs. A 2006 survey of fifty thousand women found that those with higher "western diet pattern" scores gained about two more kilograms over the course of four years than those who lowered their scores.
A ten-year follow up of 80,000 men and women found that "ten-year changes in body mass index was associated positively with meat consumption" as well as with weight gain at the waist. In a Mediterranean population of 8,000 men and women, meat consumption was significantly associated with weight gain. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed "consistent positive associations between meat consumption and BMI, waist circumference, obesity and central obesity."
A survey of twins found that processed meat intake was associated with weight gain. Western diets, which include higher consumption of red meats, are often associated with obesity.
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