Recently, a Best Food Facts reader asked about her concern of red meat, and if it can be unhealthy for you. We reached out to Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Chair of Food Science Department at Iowa State University, to talk to us about red meat.
Is red meat bad for us?
Dr. MacDonald: “Red meat is a healthy and important source of nutrients in the diet. It has a very positive nutrient profile and is an excellent source of high quality protein, B vitamins and trace minerals, especially iron and zinc, which are very well absorbed from meat.”
What about the concern of heart disease?
Dr. MacDonald: “Concerns about heart disease originally grew from research that showed saturated fats promoted atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries where plaque and fatty material coat the inner wall. And certainly, consumption of excessive amounts of these fats is not recommended. However, current sources of red meat, mainly beef and pork, are very lean – therefore, the concerns about increased heart disease risk from eating red meat are unwarranted.”
Is there a concern with eating red meat and getting cancer?
Dr. MacDonald: “Concerns about red meat and cancer risk are also not supported by research. Overwhelming data shows that colon cancer risk is not affected by consumption of modest amounts of red meat. In fact, diets that contain modest amounts of red meat provide health benefits rather than risks.”
What about making correlations between red meat and the diseases?
Dr. MacDonald: “The short answer is that scientific research uses mathematical tools and study designs that allow specific components of the diet to be assessed for their effect on health – although, it is never completely possible to separate out all of the aspects of lifestyle.”
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