Study: Red Meat Raises Risk of Diverticulitis in Men

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Are you a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy? A 2017 study in the journal GUT suggests that men who regularly eat red meat-beef, pork, lamb, particularly in unprocessed forms (as opposed to deli meats and sausages)-have an increased risk of developing diverticulitis, a condition characterized by pea-size or larger pouches that form in the large intestine and become infected or inflamed. Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, cramping, and constipation.

The study consisted of more than 46,400 male health professionals, ranging in age from 40 to 75 at enrollment. Over 26 years, men who consumed 13.5 servings of red meat a week had a 58 percent higher chance of developing diverticulitis than men who had 1.2 weekly servings.

Even after the researchers accounted for other lifestyle habits that contribute to diverticulitis-such as the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), smoking, a low-fiber diet, or inactivity-red-meat eaters still had a higher risk. This was not influenced by age or weight. Overall, risk increased by 18 percent with each daily serving of meat, plateauing after six servings a week.

If you want to cut back on red meat, try substituting one serving a day with poultry or fish-according to the study, that single substitution was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of diverticulitis. Such a substitution would have other health benefits as well.