Does red meat consumption equate to increased mortality? That's the claim of research released Monday and widely reported by national media this week, among them USA Today, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today Show. All the attention was the result of online publication in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine of a research project that analyzed the diet, health and death data on 37,698 men and 83,644 women. Participants completed questionnaires about their diets every four years.
The research concluded that eating one serving a day of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) increased risk of premature death by 13%. Meanwhile, eating one serving a day of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk of premature death.
"The message we want to communicate is it would be great if you could reduce your intake of red meat consumption to half a serving a day or two to three servings a week, and severely limit processed red meat intake," the lead researcher said.
Shalene McNeill, executive director of human nutrition research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, counters that the observational study doesn't prove red meat is the dietary villain.
"The most striking thing about this study is those who were eating higher intakes of red meat also were eating more calories, were less physically active, were more likely to smoke and ate fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains," McNeill told USAToday.
"We have a recent randomized controlled trial that showed eating 4-5 oz. of lean beef daily as a part of a heart-healthy diet improved heart health, including lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, as effectively as several other heart-healthy diets. There are many ways to build a healthy diet with lean beef that also includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes," she says.
Personally, I am confident that beef is a healthy choice. What's more, average per-capita consumption of beef continues to decline; today’s Americans rarely meet USDA recommended daily protein servings. Yet, obesity and diseases related to obesity continue to rise. Perhaps, we should take a look at the low-fat, low-protein, highly processed, high-sugar fare that constitutes standard American diet. What about our modern sedentary lifestyle? Why are we so scared of animal fats and proteins?
When will we finally recognize, with confidence, that beef is a superfood?
But, with those kinds of headlines, who can blame consumers for getting worried? And, with summer grilling season just around the corner, I think it would be a shame if Americans were too scared to enjoy a steak. So, here are additional facts. Help spread the word about beef -- a healthy choice we can enjoy without fear or guilt.
The Lempert Report recently had this to say about beef's role in lowering the incidence of heart disease.
“According to the study from Pennsylvania State University researchers, the inclusion of lean beef (4 oz./day) or the partial replacement of carbohydrates with protein (including lean beef) in a low-saturated fat diet, significantly decreased LDL cholesterol. Despite commonly held beliefs about beef, study participants experienced a 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol from the start of the study, while consuming diets that contained fewer than 7% of their calories from saturated fats.”
Here's more research showing that red meat does NOT cause cancer!
“According to a new meta-analysis of large-scale prospective studies on red and processed meats and cancer published in Nutrition Journal, there is no independent positive association between consumption of red or processed meats and the development of prostate cancer.
“Over the past decade, several major epidemiologic investigations of meat intake and prostate cancer have been published. So, researchers, led by Dominik Alexander of Exponent Health Sciences Practice, conducted a meta-analysis of prospective studies to estimate the summary associations between red meat and processed meat and total prostate cancer; evaluate associations among men with advanced disease; estimate dose response trends; evaluate potential sources of heterogeneity; and assess the potential for publication bias.
"Twenty-six studies were analyzed by the researchers – 15 on red meat and 11 studies investigating processed meats and cancer risk – and they concluded consumption of red or processed meats overall have no association with prostate cancer."
Read more about the study here.
You can share the facts about red meat and cancer with friends, family and physicians. Contact the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, which, along with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Auxiliary, has developed an educational brochure based on a study that concluded there is no causal link between red meat consumption and cancer. Learn more about it here and request copies of the brochure.
Fear not, fellow beef lovers. Beef is a great choice for a healthy lifestyle; enjoy healthy beef and feel good about serving it to your family.