13:25 01 March 2011
A new review, published in the British Nutrition Foundation's Nutrition Bulletin, has challenged the myths about red meat, stating that there is "no evidence" that eating lean red meat in moderation has a negative effect on your health.
We take a look at some of the myths when it comes to eating red meat to separate the truth from the fiction.
We eat too much red meat
There has been a decrease in the amount of red meat eaten in the UK during the last few decades.
On average, men are eating 96g of red meat a day and women are eating 57g. Average daily intake of red and processed meat is 76g. This is well below the level where experts recommend reducing consumption - over 140g per day. People can eat red meat at least five or six times a week without any cause for concern.
Red meat increases risk of cancer
Most people in the UK eat moderate amounts of red meat and the review concludes that there is no evidence of a link to cancer at moderate levels.
For high levels of consumption, some studies appear to show an increased risk while others do not. The evidence of a link between cancer and high intakes of red meat is inconclusive. Experts agree that any possible links may be more likely to do with high fat diets and cooking methods (over-cooking or charring meat) than the meat itself.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is expected to make a recommendation this week that those consuming large amounts of red meat (more than 70g per day) should consider a reduction.
Red meat increases risk of
cardiovascular disease (CVD)
There is no conclusive link between consumption of red meat and cardiovascular disease. Unprocessed lean red meat has a low saturated fatty acid and sodium content, and studies have shown favourable effects of lean red meat on CVD risk factors, including blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Meat contains a range of fatty acids, including the essential omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (linoleic and α-linolenic acids), mononsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and saturated fatty acids (SFAs). One of the main SFAs present in red meat is stearic acid, which has no effect on blood cholesterol levels and other CVD risk factors(15). N-3 PUFAs and MUFAs, along with B vitamins and selenium, may actually offer cardio-protective benefits.
Processed meat increases risk of type 2
Research has suggested that a high consumption of processed meat may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in overweight people, but further research is needed to determine the level of intake associated with a higher risk and whether it is the actual meat in these products, or other ingredients which are used, that could be the link.
Meat-eaters have a higher Body Mass
Some studies have shown meat-eaters to have a higher BMI compared to vegetarians but the review states that it is impossible to attribute this to any individual lifestyle or dietary factor because vegetarians tend to be more health-conscious, leading an overall healthier lifestyle, including more physical activity and more health-conscious dietary choices.
However the study does conclude that lean red meat may be a useful component of weight loss diets due to the satiating effect of its high protein content.
For more information on meat in the diet or the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) please visit www.meatandhealth.com
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