A large meta-analysis, including several studies, concluded that replacing red meat with healthy plant proteins, such as legumes or nuts, would greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For several years now, researchers have been warning against excessive consumption of red meat.
Numerous studies have pointed out the negative effects on health, especially cardiovascular health. But are there healthier alternatives to hamburger or prime rib? Yes, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation: Plant Proteins. Conducted by researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Purdue University, it appears that replacing red meat with high-quality sources of protein reduces cardiovascular risk.
Higher levels of “bad” cholesterol
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed data from 36 randomized studies involving 1,803 people. Researchers compared people who ate red meat with people who ate more other sources of protein such as chicken, fish, starchy foods or vegetable proteins such as legumes, soy or nuts. They looked in particular at cholesterol levels, triglycerides, lipoproteins and blood pressure, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The results showed that when red meat diets were compared to all other types of diets together, there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins or blood pressure. However, diets rich in red meat did result in higher triglyceride concentrations than other diets.
The researchers also found that diets rich in healthy plant proteins resulted in lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared to red meat diets.
Choosing the right plant proteins
According to the authors of the study, these results clearly show that cardiovascular risks are lower for people who prefer vegetable proteins and reduce their consumption of red meat. However, they point out that further studies are needed to confirm their conclusions.
Does this mean that red meat is bad for our health and that vegetable proteins are still a healthy alternative? Absolutely not, the authors of the study insist. “Asking whether red meat is good or bad makes no sense,” says Meir Stampfer, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and lead author of the study. “It should be compared to what? If you replace hamburgers with cookies or fries, you don’t get healthier. But if you replace red meat with healthy sources of plant protein, such as nuts and beans, you get a health benefit.
That’s why it’s best to choose diets with low levels of red meat but high levels of legumes, grains and nuts, such as the Mediterranean diet, which, in addition to its proven health benefits, is also better for the environment.