A recent study has shown that consuming half the amount of red and processed meat (RPM) can have a significant impact on our health by reducing the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
Red and processed meat (RPM) includes fresh beef, pork, lamb, veal and smoked, dried or preserved meats. This meat is usually rich in saturated fatty acids, which are responsible for the increase in LDL cholesterol. It is the bad cholesterol that accumulates in the walls of blood vessels where it can lead to blockages and raise the risk of a heart attack.
The growing awareness of the risks linked to eating red meat and processed meat has led to an increase in the number of people who are on vegetarian and vegan diets and completely cut meat. Researchers at the University of Nottingham wanted to know whether reducing the consumption of red meat, rather than stopping it altogether, would have a positive effect on the health of participants.
The results published in Food & Function journal proved that the most significant change was the decrease in LDL cholesterol in the blood, and that those with the highest values initially showed the largest decrease. Overall, the average LDL cholesterol reduction was about 10%, with the most significant changes observed in men who generally had the highest baseline values.
For this intervention study, 46 individuals agreed to reduce their consumption of red meat over 12 weeks by replacing it with fish, white meat or meat substitutes, or by reducing the portion sizes of their red meat. They kept a food diary during the study and had blood tests at the beginning and at regular intervals.
Professor Andrew Salter, Faculty of the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham, said that the high saturated fat content in red meat is associated with cardiovascular disease and many other serious chronic diseases, including colon cancer. Studies have shown that men who eat the most meat have a 40% higher risk of death from heart disease. The results of this study showed that even in young and healthy people, the introduction of small changes in meat intake led to significant changes in LDL cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of heart disease over time.
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, scientists were also surprised by the decrease in the number of white and red blood cells in the blood.
Dr Liz Simpson of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham a co-author of the study illustrates that Meat is a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are needed to produce blood cells. Thus people who reduce their meat consumption must ensure that their new diet includes a wide range of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains to provide these nutrients.