Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The seven ages of red meat

All too often, red meat is demonised. The role of red meat as nutritious part of a balanced diet is eroded by ill-informed media reports of some new observational (never causal) studies suggesting red meat has an adverse affect on health. Often it is not new, just old work repackaged to gain more headlines.

So it is nice to get some positive research on this front to back up the fact that millions of people have eaten meat for millions of years because they enjoy it – and have lived a long and healthy life.

A new report has been published online and is set to appear in the coming edition of the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin. The Micronutrient challenges across the age spectrum research paper asks the question: is there a role for red meat in the diet? And the answer is a resounding “yes”.

A team of experts studied data from 103 previous scientific papers on red meat and nutrition and found that including red meat as a staple of your diet, whatever your age, can help cut the gap between recommended intakes of essential minerals and the current intake levels for many people, while helping to boost the immune system and stimulate brain function. It also helps address low iron issues, which is a common problem for many women in particular. A quarter of women (and over 40 per cent of those aged 19 to 34 years) have intakes of iron below even the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) benchmark.

Red meat contains iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It is acknowledged that these are beneficial to the body and this report looks at which specific micronutrients are good for you across the “seven ages of man”. For instance, studies show infants and pre-school children are lacking in vitamin A, vitamin D, iron and zinc, so red meat can help. Teenage diets can be low in most things! Adults, particularly females, lack magnesium and iron while, if you are 75 or older, intakes of magnesium, zinc and potassium may well be below the recommended nutrient intake.

Lean red meat, eaten within daily guidelines as part of a balanced diet, can help improve nutritional intake. In addition, people who eat lean meat regularly tend to eat more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products and have a higher intake of nutrients overall, suggesting that inclusion of red meat does not displace other important foods. Any suggestion, therefore, that red meat intake should be cut significantly must be thought about long and hard in this context.

You can get more information about the seven ages of man insights here.