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Health experts weigh in on how much red meat can be consumed


Sep 17, 2023

For red meat lovers, giving up red meat can be quite challenging, even with the widely known warnings about its health risks. Similar to smokers who continue to smoke despite the dangers highlighted on cigarette packs, meat lovers continue to indulge in the juicy pleasure despite its association with serious diseases. Personally, I find it difficult to give it up.

Before we delve into the solution, let’s summarize the latest insights on red meat consumption for those who are not familiar. Over the years, experts have acknowledged the potential harms of consuming large amounts of meat, but there has been disagreement regarding the specific amount, frequency, and extent of the risks. In July 2023, an extensive review was published in the European Journal of Cardiology (ESC) that highlighted the long-term health effects of red meat. The review examined numerous previous studies and found that eating red meat can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and diabetes. These findings align with other important studies that have linked this beloved food to certain types of cancer.

However, it is important to note that these discoveries do not mean that red meat lovers should become vegetarians; that is not the goal. Many doctors and nutritionists suggest that people should not eliminate entire food groups from their diets. This approach recognizes the practicality of not completely avoiding these pleasures that make life enjoyable. So, how can one continue to enjoy red meat while minimizing the associated health risks? Let’s break it down into several components.

Firstly, it’s crucial to choose healthier cuts of meat. When referring to red meat, we are encompassing all types of muscular mammalian meat, including beef, lamb, veal, goat, and pork. These meats have varying nutritional profiles. While red meat is rich in essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and protein, it also often contains significant amounts of saturated fat. The percentage of saturated fat varies widely, depending on the cut and breeding methods. Ground meat typically contains saturated fat ranging from 2-9%. Opting for leaner cuts can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Excess fat is not necessary for high-quality, delicious beef. Some argue that Wagyu beef, known as “the world’s most delicious and most expensive meat,” could be a healthier alternative due to its higher unsaturated fat content. However, more research is needed to support this claim.

It is vital to identify the most harmful types of meat that should be avoided at all costs. Processed meats, such as sausages, salami, hot dogs, and bacon, pose serious health risks due to their high saturated fat and preservative content. Consuming just 50 grams of these foods can increase the risk of heart disease by 26% and the risk of diabetes by 44%. Additionally, recent studies have shown that consuming burnt food, including meat, toast, and potato chips, increases the risk of cancer. Burnt food introduces advanced glycation end products (AGEs) into the body, leading to inflammation, heart disease, and various cancers. Adjusting cooking methods, such as frying or baking less and choosing between baking and grilling, can help reduce these risks.

To reduce the risk of cancer, it is recommended to limit the weekly intake of lean, cooked meat to no more than 450 grams. For heart disease prevention, the recommendation is to consume up to 350 grams of unprocessed cooked meat per week. The World Health Organization also advocates limiting meat consumption to protect the environment and reduce pollution, suggesting a weekly intake of red meat below 98 grams. If these recommendations are challenging, incorporating more chicken or fish into the weekly menu is a healthier alternative that still provides protein and nutrients. It is important to remember that we are all human and may occasionally exceed these limits. The key takeaway from these recent studies is not to completely give up red meat but to approach it with more care. Over time, adopting a conscientious approach may allow for reduced consumption without feeling punished or overwhelmed.

By Editor

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