Posted on Oct 31, 2023, 5 p.m.
Inflammation is a driving risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The impact of diet and inflammation is an area of scientific interest, particularly recommendations to limit red meat consumption which are often based, in part, on older studies suggesting negative effects, yet more recent studies have not supported these findings, according to the researchers from Baylor College of Medicine.
"The role of diet, including red meat, on inflammation and disease risk has not been adequately studied, which can lead to public health recommendations that are not based on strong evidence," said Dr. Alexis Wood, associate professor of pediatrics -- nutrition at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. "Our team sought to take a closer look by using metabolite data in the blood, which can provide a more direct link between diet and health."
This study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed cross-sectional data from approximately 4,000 older adults enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Study (MESA). After adjusting for body mass index, the researchers found that intake of unprocessed and processed red meat was not associated with any markers of inflammation, suggesting that body weight itself, not red meat, may be the driver of increased systemic inflammation. Interestingly the researchers could not find a link between red meat intake and C-reactive protein (CRP), the major inflammatory risk marker of chronic disease.
"Our analysis adds to the growing body of evidence that indicates the importance of measuring plasma markers, such as metabolites, to track diet and disease risk associations, versus relying on self-reported dietary intake alone," Wood said. "Our analysis does not support previous observational research associations linking red meat intake and inflammation."
However, due to the nature of observational studies, the findings cannot indicate cause and effect. Additional research and trials are needed as additional lines of evidence to adequately understand whether or not red meat alters inflammation. It was noted that several randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that lean cuts of unprocessed beef can be consumed in heart-healthy dietary patterns.
"We have reached a stage where more studies are needed before we can make recommendations to limit red meat consumption for reducing inflammation if we want to base dietary recommendations on the most up-to-date evidence," Wood said. "Red meat is popular, accessible and palatable -- and its place in our diet has deep cultural roots. Given this, recommendations about reducing consumption should be supported by strong scientific evidence, which doesn't yet exist."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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