By now, it's probably no secret to you that red meat has a bad reputation for health. "Regular consumption of red meat has been linked to increased risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which may lead to heart disease, and also increases risk of developing certain types of cancers," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Some studies have even found high intake of red meat increases risk for developing diabetes, and may even reduce one's life span."
However, it's not just the red meat itself that can present issues. It's how you prepare it. "If you choose to grill it and the meat burns, this can cause the meat to contain harmful carcinogens which have been linked to increased cancer risk as well," adds Ehsani.
Since lots of red meat is also processed, you risk lots of excess salt consumption. "Certain types of red meat like sausage, hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, can also be very high in salt, which may raise one's blood pressure," says Ehsani.
But for some people, red meat can have a more severe impact. Here are six people who should never eat red meat, according to dietitians.
People with high cholesterol
"People with high cholesterol should not be biting into a piece of steak or hamburger daily," says Ehsani. "Unfortunately, if you already have high cholesterol, consuming red meat won't help your cholesterol levels lower, it actually will do the opposite, and will increase those bad values even more."
She adds that for people with high cholesterol, it's best to limit your consumption of red meat to approximately once or twice a month–and try to choose the leanest cut of red meat when do you choose to eat it. Flank steak, filet mignon, or sirloin are the leanest cut options to go for.
People with Alpha-gal Syndrome
If you have Alpha-gal Syndrome, you got it from a Lone Star tick that may result in a red meat allergy.
"Alpha-gal (galactose-α-1,3-galactose) is a sugar molecule found in mammals, and not found in fish, birds, reptiles, or people," explains registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Consuming meat may cause hives, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, cough, drop in blood pressure, severe stomach pain, and swelling in lips or eyes, or throat."
People with heart disease
People with heart disease should be very cautious of their intake of red meat.
"For example, a person with heart disease may already have a buildup of unhealthy plaque in their arteries, and should be eating a diet very low in any type of unhealthful fat like saturated or trans-fat that may cause even more plaque buildup," says Ehsani. "This plaque buildup, if narrowed even more, can lead to fatal or near-fatal events like a stroke or heart attack."
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People with advanced kidney disease (stages 3-5, not on dialysis)
"High protein diets when your kidneys aren't functioning well could do more harm than good," says Valdes. "You may need to drop your intake between 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight depending on your kidney function. If you have this, follow up with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you develop your diet."
People with one or more heart disease risk factors
If you have one or a few of the risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, are physically inactive, and/or are eating an unhealthy diet, you likely should be warier of consuming red meat often.
"People with these conditions already are more predisposed for developing heart disease and are at greater risk for other health conditions," says Ehasni. "It's best for people with this risk to limit their intake of red meat as much as possible, and instead focus on choosing very lean cuts of protein, such as chicken breast, fish, beans, or lentils."
People with family history of certain cancers
According to Ehsani, there's been research indicating frequent consumption of red meat and processed meat with a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
"Therefore, people with a family history of colon cancer, likely should be more cautious when it comes to red meat," says Ehsani.
"A new study found that red meat and processed meat may cause genetic damage that may be causing colon cancer as well."
A previous version of this article was originally published on Jun 8, 2022.