Men Who Eat More Red Meat Are at Risk for This Digestive Disorder


According to recent findings, it might be best for men to pass on the red meat at meal time, as higher consumption could be linked to painful digestive issues.

Credit: Christopher Bulle/Flickr, CC BY-2.0

While a direct cause-and-effect relationship was not found, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that men who consumed a diet high in red meat were 58 percent more likely to develop diverticulitis compared to men who consumed little red meat.

Diverticulitis, a disorder causing inflammation of the colon, can become especially painful and result in nausea, constipation, or even tearing of the colon. This digestive disorder hospitalizes approximately 200,000 Americans per year and is caused when little pouches form in the colon and then become infected. This disorder is often contributed to consuming a diet low in fiber, but doctors are not entirely certain about exactly what causes this to occur.

Related: Red Meat Doesn’t Harm Your Heart as Much as You Think, Says Study

The study followed 46,000 male participants across the country. This long-term study on the health and habits of the men spanned 26 years, taking factors into account such as age, weight, diet, exercise and more. While many of these factors could contribute to the development of diverticulitis and other digestive issues, eating unprocessed red meats such as steak was still linked to a higher risk of the participant developing this particular disorder.

MRI scan of colon with diverticulitis. Credit: James Heilman, CC BY-SA 4.0

Men in the study who portrayed the highest risk of developing diverticulitis consumed roughly 12 servings of red meat per week. Totaling 764 men, they were placed in the top 20 percent for eating red meat food products. The lowest group, or the bottom 20 percent, only reported eating one or slightly more than one serving of red meat each week.

Red meat has been linked to chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer in the past, so even though diverticulitis may not be directly or solely caused by red meat consumption, it is still wise for men and women to monitor their dietary intake of this type of food.

Related: Too Much Processed Meat Could Make Your Asthma Worse

While these findings do raise concerns about diet and the effect it has on the body, it remains unclear exactly how there is a relationship between red meat consumption and the risk of developing diverticulitis.

However, due to former research on the effects of eating too much red meat on a regular basis, there is merit to limiting dietary intake of these foods.

Really, it comes down to having more variety in your protein choices,” said Lora Sandon, assistant professor of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Switch out red meat with fish or poultry, or even plant sources such as tofu, beans and legumes.”