A steak through the heart

The way Australians eat beef is very different from the pattern of consumption in the US.
The way Australians eat beef is very different from the pattern of consumption in the US.

IT IS likely that Inuit aficionado and history's most famous red meat lover Vilhjalmur Stefansson would have thumbed his nose at a new US study that says "eat red meat and die".

The Arctic explorer spent years subsisting on a meat-only diet while traipsing around the pole.

To dispel scepticism that he had done just that, he subjected himself to a year-long clinical study in 1928 during which time he ate only red meat and fat.

At the end of it he was lighter, with no cholesterol, and in the very pink of health.

This week, a new Harvard study draws clear and contrary conclusions to the carnivorous love-in of 1928.

Eating red meat, and in particular processed red meat, can shunt you towards an early grave.

Eat processed meat and you are 20% more likely to die. Hot dogs and hamburgers are the devil, it seems.

It is hard to dispute the findings given the sample size and its duration.

The raw data came from a study of 37,698 men, over 22 years, and 83,644 women whose lives were kept under the microscope for 28 years.

Impressive statistics, but they have failed to make a dent in the accepted wisdom of lean meat touts in Australia.

Both the CSIRO and Heart Foundation continue to maintain the line that trimming the fat off your meat means you don't have to chain up the barbecue.

"I THINK that the way we eat our beef here in Australia is very different from the pattern of consumption in the US," Professor Peter Clifton, head of Nutritional Intervention at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, says.

"In the US half of the red meat consumed is ground meat. It is high in fat and high in salt. Our meat consumption has gone down over 20 years and the consumption of chicken has gone up. Part of this change is price driven. But it is true that people who eat more red meat for some reason tend to exercise less and drink and smoke more."


Facts on Red Meat

  • Most Australians who eat red meat consume, on average, two beef and one lamb meals per week.
  • Red meat is the most important source of iron, zinc and, after fish, omega 3.
  • Trimmed red meat with less than 4% fat gets the Heart Foundation's Tick of Approval
  • The CSIRO says fatty acids - in lean meat - can help protect against heart disease.


The US Study

  • Higher intake of red meat elevates risk of total cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.
  • Eating a portion of processed red meat daily increases risk of death by up to 20%.
  • Substituting nuts for red meat lowered total mortality risk by 19%.
  • 9.3% of male deaths could be prevented if only 42g of red meat a day was consumed.
  • For women, 7.6% of deaths were preventable if only 42g of red meat a day was consumed.

Topics:  health healthy eating red meat

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