Wait, red meat doesn’t hurt heart health?

Beef_Roast_wGarnishes_blogA heart-healthy diet consists of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and red meat. Wait—something doesn’t belong there. Usually it is recommended to limit red meat (and sugary foods and beverages).

But could that recommendation change following research from the University of Cambridge?

International researchers worked together to conduct a meta-analysis of 72 unique studies with more than 600,000 participants from 18 nations.

The startling result? They found “no proof that individuals who consumed high levels of saturated fats had a greater incidence of heart disease than those who consumed lower levels.” The research also concluded that those who ate a diet with higher levels of unsaturated fat did not have any less disease.

Rajiv Chowdhury was lead author of the research, which concluded that there weren’t significant associations between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular risk.

“These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current national guidelines,” Chowdhury said in a recent article.

This may come as welcome news to meat-eaters around the world; in fact, the trend in eating meat is growing at a rapid pace, quadrupling in popularity in the past 50 years.

“This research adds to the significant evidence, including work previously done in our lab, that supports beef’s role in a heart-healthy diet,” Penny M. Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at The Pennsylvania State University said. “This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.”

Kris-Etherton is one leader in another set of studies done at The Pennsylvania State University, which tested four diets on 36 participants to measure the diets’ effects on vascular health. The diets were the optimal lean diet, which included 113 grams of lean beef per day; the beef in an optimal lean diet+ (or BOLD+) at 154 grams of lean beef per day; the DASH diet, containing 20% protein from plant sources and only 9% from lean beef and the Healthy American Diet. The Healthy American Diet served as the control for the study, which included 13% plant-based protein and 12% lean beef.

At the conclusion of the study, the BOLD+ diet was most effective at reducing blood pressure, suggesting it is “the total protein intake—not the type of protein—that is instrumental in reducing blood pressure,” according to the researchers.

Researchers also noted that some risk factors of heart disease are not solely related to food intake, such as family medical history, age, gender and race.

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