Red meat has long suffered from a commonly spread belief that it is harmful for our health, with it being stigmatized for everything from heart disease to cancer to weight gain, you name it.
But what if that belief was a misbelief all along?
Many studies are needed to determine red meat’s effects on health as there are a number of variations in the way it can be consumed, the frequency, and other lifestyle factors that go along with it.
For instance, the difference between conventional red meat and grass-fed red meat is night and day. Is there a significant difference in results when consuming either of those?
Additionally, what foods are typically paired with red meat? It’s not often that broccoli or spinach are paired with harmful foods, but red meat often is, namely in the form of white bread and perhaps some sugary condiments.
So, what is the difference between those who consume red meat (conventional or grass-fed) alone versus those who consume it in sandwiches, mainly fast food sandwiches?
As you can see, there are many of variables to take into consideration when studying a food like this, but fortunately some researchers are uncovering what red meat’s effect on our diets might really be.
And the good news, for red meat lovers, is that some of these results are coming back in red meat’s favor.
Even if that was not the researchers’ intent.
In this case, researchers out of Poland attempted to find any correlations between a number of different lifestyle factors and telomere length. They published their findings in the July 2016 issue of Nutrition Journal.
For those yet unaware, telomeres are effectively little caps on the end of our DNA strands.
Picture them like the plastic caps on the ends of our shoelaces, holding the strands of fabric together.
As cells replicate, those caps tend to get shorter over time. The shorter the cap is, the less healthy the cell and, eventually, when there is no more cap left, the result is death of the cell.
Or the being.
This is why there are now products made to measure telomere length in order to help people identify their potential longevity and, if possible, do something about it.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the study.
The researchers surveyed 28 adult subjects (21 women and 7 men) via the food frequency questionnaire and conducted a medical examination. The questionnaire included 17 of the most common food and beverage types. Subjects also gave a blood sample for analysis of telomere length.
Among all the different foods and beverages included, only one exhibited any significant correlation to telomere length.
Some of the factors that surprisingly showed no relation to telomere length?
Smoking, physical activity, cholesterol levels, or education.
Only red meat!
Note: that certainly does not mean people should smoke, be inactive or uneducated!
The most significant differences were found between those who reported no red meat consumption at all and those who reported eating red meat 1-2 times daily.
So, clearly we should all start eating hamburger at every meal, right?
As much as I would enjoy that, this study alone does not tell us that.
While providing a very interesting indicator of potentially extending longevity, this study does not tell us how much red meat consumption might lead to the greatest longevity.
Nor does it address other factors, such as the food pairings discussed earlier.
Wouldn’t want to work to increase longevity only to torpedo those efforts with hamburger buns.
For now, I believe it is safe to say red meat may not be the boogeyman so many have claimed it to be. More studies are needed, and I will be on the hunt for them.
But, in the meantime, I feel a lot better about all that beef I’ve been eating!
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