We included 403,886 men and women (aged 38–73 y) participating in the UK Biobank who provided information on meat intake (via touchscreen questionnaire) and a nonfasting blood sample at recruitment (2006–2010). For a subset of participants (∼5%), an additional blood sample was collected (median 4.4 y later). We used multivariable linear regression models to estimate associations of meat intake (total meat, unprocessed red meat, processed meat, and poultry) with logCRP and logWBCC.
The difference in the serum CRP (mg/L) for each 50-g/d higher intake for total meat was 11.6% (95% CI: 11.1, 12.0%), for processed meat was 38.3% (95% CI: 36.0, 40.7%), for unprocessed red meat was 14.4% (95% CI: 13.6, 15.1%), and for poultry was 12.8% (95% CI: 12.0, 13.5%). The difference in the WBCC (×10–9L) for each 50 g/d higher intake of total meat was 1.5% (95% CI: 1.4, 1.6%), for processed meat was 6.5% (95% CI: 6.1, 6.9%), for unprocessed red meat was 1.6% (95% CI: 1.4, 1.7%), and for poultry was 1.6% (95% CI: 1.4, 1.7%). All associations were attenuated after adjustment for adiposity; by 67% with BMI (in kg/m2) and by 58% with waist circumference for total meat and CRP, and by 53% and 47%, respectively, for WBCC, although associations remained statistically significant. Findings of sensitivity analyses in 15,420 participants were similar prospectively, except there were no associations between unprocessed red meat and WBCC.
Higher meat consumption, particularly of processed meat, was positively associated with inflammatory markers in these British adults; however, the magnitudes of associations are small and predominantly due to higher adiposity.