More and more research is warning consumers about their red meat consumption, but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Nottingham found that completely eliminating the food group could be taking things too far.
The study found that reducing red meat consumption by about half could be just what consumers need to stay on track with their health.
“With a high saturated fatty acid content, red and processed meat has been linked to heart disease, and other chronic diseases, particularly colon cancer,” said researcher Andrew Salter. “The results of the study presented showed that, even in relatively young and healthy individuals, making relatively small changes to [red and processed meat] intake induced significant changes in LDL cholesterol, which, if maintained over a period of time could potentially reduce the risk of developing heart disease.”
Finding a healthy balance
Over the course of 12 weeks, the researchers had nearly 50 participants adjust their red meat intake to determine how doing so would affect their health.
During that time, the participants swapped food items like beef, veal, pork, and lamb with traditionally healthier items -- like fish or leaner meat options. The team hoped that participants would be avoiding many of the health concerns that are associated with a higher red meat intake, such as heart disease, heart attack, or higher cholesterol.
Throughout the study, participants had their blood taken to assess their vitals. They also kept a log of everything they ate so that the researchers could better determine how their diets were affecting their physical health.
None of the participants cut out red meat completely, but the researchers found that just limiting their intake was beneficial in several ways. All participants had lower LDL cholesterol, and they also had lower white and red blood cell counts by the end of the study.
The research team hopes that consumers understand the benefits that come with eating less red meat and how important it is to maintain a balanced diet in an effort to stay healthy.
“Meat is a rich source of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) required for the manufacture of blood cells, and although it is possible to obtain these nutrients in plant-based diets, our results suggest that those reducing their meat intake need to ensure that their new diet contains a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses, and whole grains to provide those nutrients,” said researcher Dr. Liz Simpson.