Enjoy that steak — new research shows red meat has less impact on cardiovascular health than we thought.
According to a review of clinical trials from Purdue University, consuming red meats in higher quantities than what’s typically recommended does not affect short-term cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
“During the last 20 years, there have been recommendations to eat less red meat as part of a healthier diet, but our research supports that red meat can be incorporated into a healthier diet,” said Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science. “Red meat is a nutrient-rich food, not only as a source of protein but also bioavailable iron.”
Mainstream recommendations to limit red meat in the diet come mostly from studies that examine the eating habits of people with cardiovascular disease. While these studies suggest that consuming red meat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, they are not designed to show that red meat is the cause of the disease.
To address this issue, Campbell and his team conducted a review and analysis of past clinical trials which discern the cause and effect of eating habits and health risks. Their analysis of 24 studies that met specific criteria — including red meat consumption, evaluation of cardiovascular disease risk factors and study design -— was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“We found that consuming more than half a serving per day of red meat, which is equivalent to a 3 ounce serving three times per week, did not worsen blood pressure and blood total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride concentrations, which are commonly screened by health-care providers,” said doctoral student Lauren O’Connor.
The research included all types of red meat but focused mostly on unprocessed beef and pork.
More research is needed, Campbell acknowledged, noting that blood pressure and cholesterol are not the only determining factors for someone to develop heart disease. Also these experiments were conducted over periods that ranged from weeks to months, when it often takes years or decades for people to develop cardiovascular disease or experience a cardiac event, Campbell noted.
“It is also important to recognize that our findings are specific to selected indicators for cardiovascular disease risk,” Campbell said. “Comparable research is needed to assess other health risk factors from clinical trials, including inflammation and blood glucose control.”