Research finds meat consumption does not impact heart disease risk

A new study has found that there is no connection between eating red meat and cardiovascular disease risk factors. 

A new review of clinical trials from Purdue University in Indiana, US, showed that the consumption of red meat in amounts above what is typically recommended does not affect the risk of heart disease, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

“During the last 20 years, there have been recommendations to eat less red meat as part of a healthier diet, but our research supports that red meat can be incorporated into a healthier diet,” said Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science. “Red meat is a nutrient-rich food, not only as a source for protein but also bioavailable iron.”

Campbell was joined by doctoral student Lauren O’Connor and postdoctoral researcher Jung Eun Kim to conduct a review and analysis of past clinical trials with the aim of detecting cause and effect between eating habits and health risks.

To achieve their aim, the scientists screened hundreds of related research articles with a focus on studies that met specific criteria including the amount of red meat consumed, evaluation of cardiovascular disease risk factors and study design. An analysis of the 24 studies that met the criteria was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“We found that consuming more than half a serving per day of red meat, which is equivalent to a three-ounce serving three times per week, did not worsen blood pressure and blood total cholesterol, HDL [High-density lipoprotein], LDL [Low-density lipoprotein] and triglyceride concentrations, which are commonly screened by health-care providers,” explained O’Connor.

The research encompassed all types of meat, but mainly focuses on unprocessed beef and pork.

Campbell added that more analysis was needed as the evaluation of blood pressure and cholesterol are not the sole determinants for someone to develop cardiovascular disease. The time over which these experiments were conducted ranged from just a few weeks to a few months as opposed to the years or even decades that it could take for diseases to develop.

“It is also important to recognise that our findings are specific to selected indicators for cardiovascular disease risk,” added Campbell. “Comparable research is needed to assess other health risk factors from clinical trials, including inflammation and blood glucose.”

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has welcomed the revelation from the university. “This report from Purdue University is a timely reminder of the positive benefits of red meat in a balanced diet,” Rhys Llywelyn, HCC marketing manager told Meat Trades Journal.  

“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef are excellent as a source of high quality protein, zinc and iron. Protein is especially important in supporting active healthy lifestyles, as it speeds recovery after exercise, curbs hunger and reduces muscle loss. We’re seeing a big rise in the popularity of food bloggers who emphasise the important positive role red meat can play, so the message is clearly striking a chord with many consumers.”

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