It’s no secret that red meat may drive a variety of health issues, but advice to cut the food product entirely out of one’s diet is too drastic for many people to consider. There’s a compromise that offers one of the major benefits, however, and it may be a good option for anyone who wants to reduce their health risks while enjoying the occasional burger: cutting one’s red meat and processed meat consumption in half.
A new study from researchers at the Unversity of Nottingham looked at the potential health benefits of reducing — but not eliminating — red meat and processed meats from one’s diet.
Processed meats refer to any meat product that has been cured, smoked, or in some way preserved, while red meat includes beef, pork, venison, duck, goose, mutton, and select other products.
According to the study, eating half of one’s usual amounts of these meats may have ‘a significant impact’ on one’s LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels. Reducing LDL cholesterol likewise reduces one’s risk of developing heart disease, a very common condition that claims millions of lives every year. The researchers point out that both processed meat and red meat are typically high in saturated fat, which increases LDL cholesterol.
The researchers found that the study participants who had the highest LDL cholesterol levels at the start of the study saw the greatest benefit from cutting their red/processed meat consumption in half. Men were more likely to have the highest levels in the study, which ultimately found around a 10-percent decrease in LDL levels.
Of note, the researchers found that in addition to a drop in LDL cholesterol, decreasing red meat and processed meat consumption also caused a decrease in white and red blood cell counts. This is because meat provides many micronutrients; when reducing meat consumption, the researchers caution that one must ensure their diet is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and other healthy foods in order to get the nutrients they need.