New Delhi: Red meat is given its name because it is red when raw. It has lots of nutrients like protein, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. But, the impact of red meat consumption on health is a complex and debated topic. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and veal. Some studies suggest that high consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meats like sausages, bacon, and deli meats, may be associated with an increased risk of certain health conditions. However, the overall impact can vary depending on individual factors such as genetics, overall diet, portion size, cooking methods, and lifestyle.
Dr. Jyoti Khaniojh, Dietetics, Nutrition And Dietetics at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj said, “There is evidence that regular consumption of red meat can increase the risk of heart disease, cancers, especially colon cancer, and kidney disease, as it contains more saturated fats than lean meat. But, a small portion of it can be consumed occasionally. So, it is not necessary to stop eating it completely, but you can choose lean cuts of red meat and make it a part of your balanced diet. At the same time, do avoid too much processed meat.”
Key Points To Consider In Case Of Red Meat:
Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi who is a chief nutritionist at Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi listed down some key points to consider when it comes to red meat.
Health Risks: High consumption of processed red meats has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning there is sufficient evidence that they can cause cancer. However, the risk is generally associated with frequent and high consumption.
Nutritional Content: Red meat is a good source of nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are important for overall health. However, it’s possible to obtain these nutrients from other sources as well, such as lean poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fortified foods.
Portion Size and Cooking Methods: Moderation is key. Consuming small portions of lean, unprocessed red meat and choosing healthier cooking methods (grilling, baking, broiling) can reduce potential health risks. Avoiding charred or overcooked meat can also help reduce the formation of potentially harmful compounds.
Dietary Patterns: The overall dietary pattern matters. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while minimizing processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive saturated fats can contribute to better health outcomes.
Individual Variability: The impact of red meat on health can vary from person to person. Genetics, gut microbiota composition, and other individual factors can influence how red meat is metabolized and its potential health effects.
Sustainability: Red meat production has significant environmental implications, including greenhouse gas emissions and land use. Reducing red meat consumption can have positive effects on environmental sustainability.
“While red meat can be part of a balanced diet for many individuals, it’s important to consume it in moderation and choose lean, unprocessed cuts. If you have specific health concerns or dietary preferences, consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance based on your individual needs and circumstances,” she added.
Red Meat Can Also Be Beneficial For Health:
Dr Altamash Shaikh who is a consultant endocrinologist, diabetologist and metabolic superspecialist at Saifee Hospital, Mumbai said, “There is some scientific evidence that suggests that red meat can be beneficial for health. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating red meat was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes. However, other studies have found that eating red meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer”
“Red meat is about 20% protein, 25% fat, and 55% water. The fat content of red meat can vary depending on the cut of meat and the way it is cooked. Red meat also contains all amino acids that human body needs, vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, selenium, and vitaminB12, choline, creatine, carnosine, taurine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and coenzymeQ10. This protein and iron is more bioavailable than other protein sources,” he added.
How Much Red Meat Can Be Consumed Without Any Adverse Effects:
Dr Altamash Shaikh said, “The WHO recommended that people who eat more than 90 g of red meat per day should reduce their consumption to lower their risk of colorectal cancer.”
“But, according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, the average Indian adult consumes about 100 grams of red meat per week. This is lower than the global average of 130 grams per week. However, there is a significant variation in red meat consumption across India. For example, the average adult in the southern states consumes only about 60 grams of red meat per week, while the average adult in the northeastern states consumes about 140 grams of red meat per week,” he added.
Talking about the recommendation by The American Heart Association he said, “AHA (American Heart Association) recommended that people should choose lean cuts of unprocessed red meat over fatty cuts or processed meats and limit their intake to no more than (85 g) per day or (500 g) per week. It also suggested that people should replace some red meat with other sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products.”
Factors Which May Increase The Risk Of Harm Caused By Red Meat:
Dr Altamash Shaikh said that the following factors may increase the risk of harm from eating red meat:
- High intake of red meat
- High intake of packaged, or processed fried meat
- Family history of heart disease or cancer
- Personal history of heart disease or cancer
- Other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
“The amount of red meat that is harmful varies from person to person. Some people may be able to eat a small amount of red meat without any problems, while others may need to limit their intake even further. The best way to determine how much red meat is safe for you to eat is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you assess your individual risk factors and make recommendations for a healthy diet,” he further went on to say.
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