An Irish study published in the journal Nutrients this month adds to existing scientific evidence supporting the role of fresh beef and lamb as part of a healthy diet.
Consumption of fresh beef and lamb was associated with higher intakes of protein, niacin, vitamins B6, B12 and zinc while also contributing to relatively small proportions of total fat, saturated fat and salt.
The study found that in adults, older adults and women of childbearing age, higher consumption of fresh beef and lamb was not associated with increased risk factors of cardio-metabolic diseases nor was it associated with better or poorer nutritional status for vitamins D, B12 or Iron.
Fresh beef and lamb contributed relatively small proportions to overall intakes of those nutrients (total fat, saturated fat and salt) associated with potential adverse health effects, according to the study.
A growing body of evidence proposes that dietary advice to limit red meat for health benefits is unnecessarily restrictive, according to the authors. The study was conducted by researchers from Munster Technological University, UCC, UCD and Queen’s University Belfast.
Higher consumption of red meat
The study found that while higher consumption of fresh beef and lamb was associated with higher intakes of total fat and lower intakes of carbohydrate and dietary fibre in some age groups, it was also associated with higher intakes of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc and potassium and lower intakes of sugars.
In adults, higher consumption was not associated with increased risk of cardio-metabolic diseases or better nutritional status.
The analysis is based on three nationally representative dietary surveys in the Republic of Ireland and investigates diets of the population between five and 90 years old.
The EAT-Lancet commission, which seeks to influence public policy on sustainable diets and meat consumption, recommends an extreme reduction in red and processed meat consumption as part of a healthy diet from sustainable food systems.
In the case of Ireland, current intakes of fresh red meat would require a significant dietary shift to meet these recommendations according to this study.
The authors note that the findings of this study and the available literature further highlight the role of red meat for micronutrient intakes and may be particularly relevant for vulnerable population groups in light of the restrictive limits proposed by the EAT-Lancet commission.