Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Red Meat and Heart Health

With over 160,000 deaths each year[1] attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD), GP Dr Gill Jenkins, member of the Meat Advisory Panel discusses heart heath and takes a look behind the red meat headlines.

  • 7 million people are living with cardiovascular disease in the UK1
  • Nearly one in six men and one in ten women die from coronary heart disease1
  • There are up to 175,000 heart attacks in the UK each year, that’s one every three minutes1

“February is National Heart Month, a campaign by the British Heart Foundation, and is often a time when people may stop to think about their own heart health. Patients often ask me what type of things can have an impact on their heart and what steps they can take to look after it. Quite often they come to me with the latest media headlines about heart disease, asking for example if they should stop eating red meat.

“In terms of looking after our heart, we should be;

  • Following a healthy balanced diet, with 5 portions of fruit and veg a day and keeping your intake of fatty foods low.
  • Moving around and taking part in exercise – be it a walk or a gym class- its recommended to have 30minutes of activity (enough to make you mildly sweaty or mildly breathless), 5 days a week, although you can break this into smaller more frequent amounts.
  • Watching our weight – if you are overweight gradually reduce your portion sizes and gradually increase your activity levels to get slowly reduce your weight over several months.
  •  Not smoking – smoking has the greatest risk to your heart so seek help to stop, ask at your health centre to see the specialist nurse or doctor.
  • Not drinking too much alcohol.
  • Know your cholesterol level and how to reduce it, if it’s too high – again, ask at your health centre about having a test, and also about having your blood pressure checked.
“The latter part of the advice is easier for patients to understand what they need to do. It’s the healthy balanced diet that gets the questions.

Moderation and a little bit of everything
“I tell my patients that moderation and a little bit of everything is the key to good health. They often ask me about red meat and if they should stop eating it. No is the answer, lean meat has lots of health benefits. Lean red meat provides vital protein, plus vitamins and minerals to help fuel our body’s needs.

“This includes vitamin A for eye and skin health, vitamin D for bone health and immune function, iron for energy levels and cognitive function, magnesium for muscle and nervous function, zinc for reproductive health, hair and nails, and selenium, which acts as a powerful antioxidant and potassium for blood pressure control.

“With regards to headlines suggesting people stop eating red meat, results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study did not indicate any association between total red meat intake and randomisation for heart failure.[2]

“The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends average daily red meat intake of up to 70 grams per day (as cooked meat)  for adults[3].  Average intakes in the UK are already close to this level at 72g daily, suggesting that most people do not need to eat less red meat.”

[2] Nettleton JA, Steffen LM, Loehr LR, Rosamond WD, Folsom AR. Incident heart  failure is associated with lower whole-grain intake and greater high-fat dairy and egg  intake in the atherosclerosis risk in communities (aric) study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1881-1887.

[3] SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition). (2010). "Iron and Health."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Modern diets are out of step with our evolutionary needs - Dr Carrie Ruxton

“I recently authored a study on behalf of the Meat Advisory Panel, published in Complete Nutrition, outlining how foods which were rarely, or never, eaten by our ancestors now account for 70% of our daily energy intake.

“Questions which can be drawn from this is to ask if our modern eating habits are actually powering an epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases, such as cancer and cardiac problems and what would happen to this crisis if we returned to a more ancestral, paleo-type diet.

“Genetically we are still stone-age hunter-gathers who flourish on a diet of lean meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts, but in this day and age we are surrounded by foods laden with sugar, simple carbohydrates and the wrong type of fats – all within easy reach.

“If we take a look at the fossil record and diets of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, it suggests that we are actually best suited to a diet which is higher in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and fibre, but lower in carbohydrates, omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats, and devoid of refined sugars.

“Often red meat gets the blame as being a risk factor in cardiovascular disease, but in fact modern hunter-gatherers eat far more red meat than is recommended in Western countries, yet have a far lower risk of cardiovascular conditions.

“If we take a leaf out of our ancestor’s book and follow protein-rich eating regimes, which includes a moderate amount of red meat, such as the Paleo diet, we could be benefiting from countless health benefits.

"As a result of this research, I developed a five-point plan which highlights the benefits of a paleo-type diet and suggests simples swaps to eat for your evolutionary age." 

Paleo diets


health impact

Modern equivalents

High intakes of game meat

High intakes of MUFA, PUFA, lower SFA. High intakes of protein

Choose lean red meat and game, remove any visible fat and cook without extra fat, or use olive oil

Low intakes of processed carbohydrates and modern grains

Lower carbohydrate content and lower GL than modern diets. More dietary variety from gathered grains

Include a wider range of wholegrains in the diet e.g. rye, spelt, barley, flax, teff (ancient grain)

Use of honey and fruits to sweeten

Reduced added sugar consumption, lower GI

Honey and fruits can still be used to sweeten

Foraged marine foods

High intakes of n3PUFA and vitamin D

Consume fish twice a week, including one portion of oily fish. Consume shellfish and molluscs

Wide variety of foraged plant foods

High intakes of fibre and PUFA

Snack on nuts and seeds. Choose a wider variety of vegetables

 [i1]Are we suggesting that others adopt this 5 point plan… is the aim to help other HCPs spread this news of what we should and should not be eating?

Friday, February 13, 2015

How much red meat should we be eating?

Guest dietitian from the Meat Advisory Panel, Dr Mabel Blades advises how much red meat should be included in a healthy, balanced diet:
“I quite often get asked how much red meat we should be eating and what the recommended weight actually looks like on the plate. To start with the guidelines,  the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends that adults should eat a balanced diet with up to 500g (cooked weight) of lean red meat a week or up to 70g per day.

“So, we have clear government guidelines but what does 70g of red meat actually look like on your dinner plate?
“When meat is cooked it loses about a third of its raw weight due mainly to losing water. If you dry fry 100g raw minced beef it will, after cooking, be approximately 70g in weight. This is always a useful guide when buying meat as you can ask the butcher for 100g per person of raw meat or look for packs in the supermarket of the appropriate size.”

Examples of approximately 70g portions of cooked meats and meat products include:

• One medium portion shepherd’s pie, lasagne, cottage pie, stir fry, chilli or any dish where you normally use lean minced meat
• One lamb chop
• Two slices of roast lamb, beef or pork
• A piece of rump or sirloin steak about the size of a pack of cards
• Three grilled lean rashers of bacon
• 2 large or 3 small grilled sausages
• Two standard beef burgers or one quarter pounder
• Three slices of ham

“So why should we be including lean red meat in our diets? Well, beef, pork and lamb contribute to the all-important balance that necessary for a healthy diet and this is backed by the Department of Health. It highlights that red meat is a good source of protein, and vitamins and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins.

“It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12, which is only found in foods of animal origin, such as meat and milk.”