Did you know Eating red meat on a regular basis may shorten your lifespan? Yes, red meat intake is linked to higher risk of mortality.
Some startling stats!
According to the most recent estimates by the Global Burden of Disease Project, about 34 000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.
Eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer. However, if the reported associations were proven to be causal, the Global Burden of Disease Project has estimated that diets high in red meat could be responsible for 50 000 cancer deaths per year worldwide.
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What constitutes red meat?
Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.
Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.
Meat can also contain chemicals that form during meat processing or cooking. For instance, carcinogenic chemicals that form during meat processing include N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Cooking of red meat or processed meat also produces heterocyclic aromatic amines as well as other chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also found in other foods and in air pollution. Some of these chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens, but despite this knowledge it is not yet fully understood how cancer risk is increased by red meat or processed meat.
Method of cooking
Cooking at high temperatures or with the food in direct contact with a flame or a hot surface, as in barbecuing or pan-frying, produces more of certain types of carcinogenic chemicals (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines).
Recommended intake of red meat
The Department of Health advises people to consume 90g or less of red meat per day. A thin slice of pork, lamb or beef the size of half a slice of bread provides about 30g of meat. To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 500g /18 ounces (cooked weight) per week of red meats, like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meat such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages.
Red meat health benefits
- Red meat is a rich source of protein, saturated fat, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
- Iron is best absorbed by the body from red meat because it is present in the heme form
- Zinc , required by the body for DNA synthesis and helps the immune system to function effectively, is found in red meat and is best absorbed from meat and fish sources.
- Amongst the B vitamins found abundantly in red meat are vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
Dangers of red meat
Consumption of red meat has been linked with increased incidences of heart disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. The extent of the associations have found to be higher for processed red meat.
The researchers estimated that substituting 1 serving per day of other foods—like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains—for red meat could lower the risk of mortality by 7% to 19%.
Substituting other healthy protein rich food sources may help in preventing morbidity and mortality associated with its consumption
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