Red Meat: Better Than You Thought
- Meat is an American staple, and the meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of United States agriculture. Total meat and poultry production in 2007 reached more than 91.5 billion pounds with annual sales of $143 billion.
- Although meat contains a significant amount of saturated fat, almost half of the saturated fat is stearic acid which does not raise LDL cholesterol.1 Furthermore, lean meat has much less saturated fat than fatty cuts of meat.1 In addition, meat contains up to 45% cholesterol lowering monounsaturated fat. Lean meat is an excellent source of protein and monounsaturated fat and has less saturated fat than chicken thighs (dark meat).2 (Figure 063)
- In the US, the term loin or round signifies lean meat. Whereas prime or rib signifies fat cuts with very high saturated fat. It is not often appreciated, that a 6oz portion of lean beef contains less saturated fat (3g) than a chicken thigh (5g). Chicken and lean beef, but not fatty meat has similar effects on plasma lipoproteins and are interchangeable in a healthy diet.
- The per capita consumption for meat and poultry is 234 pounds (about 10oz/day) in the US. Of this, turkey accounts for 18 pounds, and chicken 85 pounds. Beef and pork each account for 65 pounds, down from 75 pounds in 1980. As such, decrease in the consumption of beef and pork was not an important contributor to the 70% in coronary artery disease (CAD) observed in the US in the last 35 years.3
- Many cultures, especially vegetarians, consider meat to be an unhealthy food. Red meat is a source of saturated fat, cholesterol, and heme iron. Red meat consumption is inconsistently associated with development of abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, CAD, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.4-15
- The meat consumption has been falling in many western countries due to adverse health concerns since the 1970s. Red meat intake in 1995/6 averaged 88 g a day for men and 45 g a day for women in Australia. Red meat contributed to less than one-fifth of the dietary fat and saturated fat in the Australian diet and the same may be true for many western countries. 16
- Surprisingly, the highest intakes of red meat were not at the expense of fruits and vegetables. Vegetable and fruit intake was actually higher among those with higher meat consumers and lower with those of low meat consumers.16 In sharp contrast, processed meat consumption is negatively associated with dietary quality.17
- The effects of meat intake on different outcomes vary depending upon whether it is a lean or fatty cut of meat as well as whether it is fresh or processed.4 Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of CAD and diabetes according to a systematic review and meta-analysis involving 1,218,380 individuals and 23,889 CAD, 2,280 stroke, and 10,797 diabetes cases. 4
- Processed meat intake was associated with 42% higher risk of CAD and 19% higher risk of diabetes per 50 g serving per day. Consumption of red and processed meat were not associated with stroke.4 100g (3.5 oz) for red meat and 50g (1.8 oz) for processed meat was used as a serving size in this study Table 115 A.4
Table 115 A. Differences Between Red Meat and Processed Meats4
|Per 50 g serving4||Red meat||Processed meats|
|Total energy Kcal||123||128|
|Total fat % energy||50||58|
|Total fat g||7||10|
|Saturated fat % energy||19||19|
|Saturated fat g||3||4|
|Monounsaturated fat % energy||21||25|
|Monounsaturated fat g||3||5|
- Unprocessed red and processed meats have differing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk which may be related more to the higher content of salt and nitrites in the latter. Both meats have nearly similar saturated fat, cholesterol, total fat, and total calorie content.4 The processed meat contains 4-fold higher salt and 50% higher nonsalt preservatives including nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines.4
- Moderate consumption of lean red meat as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to increase risk for CVD or colon cancer, but may positively influence nutrient intakes and long-term health.18
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