A new absolute beast of a study by Fleming et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [1] found that the inclusion of Lean Red Meat at up to 5.5 ounces per day inside of a Mediterranean-style diet still lead to reductions in blood lipids even when people did not lose weight. Furthermore, we would expect that the blood lipid-lowering results of this dietary approach would be even more pronounced when fat loss is in play [2]

Another study by Maki et al. published in 2020 [3] found that even in those with Type 2 Diabetes under calorie and fiber match conditions when subjects ate two servings of lean unprocessed beef PER DAY for four straight weeks nothing really changed from a cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk standpoint and this is in line with the recent meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on this subject [4].

“Our results indicate that the consumption of >0.5 servings of total red meat per day does not influence these clinically relevant and commonly measured modifiable CVD risk factors…These results are generalizable across a variety of populations, dietary patterns, and types of red meat.”

-O’Connor et al., 2017 [4]

Another 2021 meta-analysis of RCTs found no relationship between red meat consumption and biomarkers of blood sugar control and inflammation [5].

So can Lean Red Meat be part of a healthy whole-food diet for the vast majority of the population?

Given the strength of the evidence above. My answer is Yes.

Does this mean that everyone has to eat red meat or that lean red meat must be included for a diet to be healthy or adequate?

No. There are many different ways to maintain a healthy diet. But, selling fear of leaner cuts of meat just isn't helpful.

In fact, it is important to note that we are strictly talking about lean red meat here and that even prospective observational research on both poultry and fish has found a null or even slightly protective relationship with all-cause mortality [6, 7]!

*If you are somewhat concerned about the observational association (watching people who eat red meat vs. those who don’t) between red meat and death/CVD risk, my advice would be to eat less than 14-28 ounces per week of unprocessed leaner cuts and less than 2 servings per week of any processed red meat while consuming more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 30 grams of fiber per day [8-14]. (If you wanted to use a conservative interpretation from the Fleming study [1] above you might put the breakpoint at 17.5 ounces per week of lean red meat).

If you are extremely concerned and don’t really like red meat take it down to zero, but please make sure you aren’t deficient in iron and let’s not be judgy or pushy on others who are less risk-averse than us.

**If you are avoiding red meat or animal products in general for ethical reasons. Carry on and thank you for getting this far in the article.

***If you are avoiding red meat because you think it is always absolutely better for the world…consider for a moment that that ~86% of what cattle eat is inedible to humans [15], that the most sustainable diet for human and world health may be a slight to moderate omnivorous diet [16], and that cattle raised in regenerative agriculture may be one of the only net negative carbon footprint food sources [17, 18].



1. Fleming, J.A., et al., Effect of varying quantities of lean beef as part of a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern on lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized crossover controlled feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2021. 113(5): p. 1126-1136.
2. Brown, J.D., et al., Effects on cardiovascular risk factors of weight losses limited to 5-10. Transl Behav Med, 2016. 6(3): p. 339-46.
3. Maki, K.C., et al., Substituting Lean Beef for Carbohydrate in a Healthy Dietary Pattern Does Not Adversely Affect the Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Profile in Men and Women at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr, 2020. 150(7): p. 1824-1833.
4. O'Connor, L.E., J.E. Kim, and W.W. Campbell, Total red meat intake of >/=0.5 servings/d does not negatively influence cardiovascular disease risk factors: a systemically searched meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr, 2017. 105(1): p. 57-69.
5. O'Connor, L.E., et al., Effects of Total Red Meat Intake on Glycemic Control and Inflammatory Biomarkers: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Adv Nutr, 2021. 12(1): p. 115-127.
6. Zhao, L.G., et al., Fish consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2016. 70(2): p. 155-61.
7. Lupoli, R., et al., White Meat Consumption, All-Cause Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Nutrients, 2021. 13(2).
8. Bellavia, A., F. Stilling, and A. Wolk, High red meat intake and all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality: is the risk modified by fruit and vegetable intake? Am J Clin Nutr, 2016. 104(4): p. 1137-1143.
9. Zhong, V.W., et al., Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Intern Med, 2020. 180(4): p. 503-512.
10. Yang, Y., et al., Association between dietary fiber and lower risk of all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Am J Epidemiol, 2015. 181(2): p. 83-91.
11. Bellavia, A., et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause mortality: a dose-response analysis. Am J Clin Nutr, 2013. 98(2): p. 454-9.
12. Liu, L., S. Wang, and J. Liu, Fiber consumption and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortalities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Mol Nutr Food Res, 2015. 59(1): p. 139-46.
13. Yip, C.S.C., W. Chan, and R. Fielding, The Associations of Fruit and Vegetable Intakes with Burden of Diseases: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2019. 119(3): p. 464-481.
14. Wang, D.D., et al., Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies. Circulation, 2021. 143(17): p. 1642-1654.
15. Anne Mottet, C.d.H., Alessandra Falcucci, Giuseppe Tempio, Carolyn Opio, Pierre Gerber, Livestock: On our plates or eating at our table? A new analysis of the feed/food debate. Global Food Security. 14: p. 1-8.
16. Peters, C.J., et al., Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 2016. 4.
17. Rowntree, J.E., et al., Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 2020. 4(232).
18. van Vliet, S., S.L. Kronberg, and F.D. Provenza, Plant-Based Meats, Human Health, and Climate Change. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 2020. 4(128).