July 23, 2024

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Research Finds Red Meat May Not Be as Harmful to the Body as Previously Believed

Research Finds Red Meat May Not Be as Harmful to the Body as Previously Believed

Research Finds Red Meat May Not Be as Harmful to the Body as Previously Believed

Research from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Agricultural Science Institute suggests that contrary to some previous studies, consuming red meat may not be directly linked to inflammation.

The research team used cross-sectional data from older individuals and found that, after adjusting for body mass index (BMI), there was no connection between red meat and inflammation markers. Dr. Alexis Wood emphasized that any dietary recommendations regarding red meat should be based on reliable scientific evidence.

Inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), and the impact of diet on inflammation is an increasingly studied area in the scientific community. Dietary recommendations often suggest limiting red meat intake, partially based on older research suggesting a negative impact of red meat on inflammation, but recent studies do not support this viewpoint.

Dr. Alexis Wood, Associate Professor of Pediatric Nutrition at the Baylor College of Medicine and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Science Institute, stated, “The role of diet, including red meat, in inflammation and disease risk has not been fully explored, which could lead to public health recommendations not being based on strong evidence. Our team sought to conduct a deeper investigation through metabolite data in the blood, providing a more direct link between diet and health.”

Methods and Results of the Study

Wood and her team analyzed cross-sectional data from approximately 4,000 older adults participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Cross-sectional data is a valuable source of evidence on how diet affects health. It involves observing people in their usual living conditions without attempting to influence their lifestyle. Therefore, applying the results of such studies to non-research settings is more straightforward.

In addition to evaluating participants’ self-reported food intake and several biomarkers, the researchers measured a range of dietary intake metabolites in the blood. Plasma metabolites help capture the impact of food processing, digestion, and absorption on dietary intake.

The researchers found that, when adjusted for body mass index (BMI), both unprocessed and processed red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) intake had no direct correlation with any inflammation markers, suggesting that body weight rather than red meat may be the driving factor in increasing overall inflammation. Of particular interest, there was no connection between red meat intake and a major inflammation risk marker for chronic diseases, C-reactive protein (CRP).

Wood said, “Our analysis adds new content to the growing body of evidence that suggests measuring plasma biomarkers, such as metabolites, to track the association between diet and disease risk is more important than relying solely on self-reported dietary intake. Our analysis does not support previous observational studies linking red meat intake with inflammation.”

The Need for Further Research

Since observational studies cannot establish causation, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), where individuals are randomly assigned to consume or not consume the dietary factor of interest, are needed to provide additional evidence to fully understand whether red meat does not affect inflammation. Several studies suggest that lean unprocessed beef can be consumed in heart-healthy dietary patterns.

Wood stated, “We have reached a point where more research is needed to make recommendations to limit red meat consumption to reduce inflammation, if we want to base dietary recommendations on the latest evidence. Red meat is popular, readily available, and delicious—it holds a deep cultural significance in our diets. Given this, recommendations to reduce its consumption should be supported by robust scientific evidence, which is currently lacking.”

Research Finds Red Meat May Not Be as Harmful to the Body as Previously Believed

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