Red meat may not be associated with an increased risk of inflammation after all, at least that’s what recent study results show. This contradicts recommendations that advise limiting red meat consumption because it negatively affects inflammation.
A new study involving experts from Imperial College London examined whether metabolites associated with red meat consumption are also linked to inflammation. The study results are published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.
Inflammation increases the risk of chronic diseases
Inflammation is considered an important risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is important to understand the influence of diet on inflammation.
In recent years, scientific interest in the connection between inflammation and nutrition has increased significantly. However, recommendations derived from this to limit the consumption of red meat are partly based on older studies.
These studies had suggested that red meat negatively affects inflammation. However, more recent studies have not been able to confirm this connection, the researchers report.
Analyzing the connection between diet and inflammation
“The role of diet, including red meat, on inflammation and disease risk has not been adequately studied, which may result in public health recommendations that are not based on solid evidence,” explains study author Dr. Alexis Wood in a press release.
For the new study, the team analyzed cross-sectional data from around 4,000 people who had an average age of 63 and were part of the so-called Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
To clarify uncertainties surrounding the connection between red meat and inflammation, the team examined food intake metabolites in the blood in addition to assessing participants’ self-reported food intake and various biomarkers.
These plasma metabolites may reflect the effects of ingestion in food processing, digestion and absorption, according to the team. Their analysis makes it possible to establish a more direct connection between diet and health factors.
Red meat not linked to inflammation
When analyzing the data, the experts found that the consumption of red meat (beef, pork or lamb) was not directly linked to inflammatory markers after adjusting for body mass index (BMI). This applied to both unprocessed and processed red meat.
According to the researchers, body weight rather than red meat consumption appears to be the cause of increased systemic inflammation. It has also been shown that there is no connection between the consumption of red meat and so-called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is considered the most important inflammatory marker for chronic diseases.
“Our analysis adds to the growing body of evidence indicating the importance of measuring plasma markers such as metabolites to identify associations between diet and disease risk, rather than relying solely on self-reported dietary intake,” explains Dr. Wood.
The results of the current analysis therefore do not support previous associations from observational research that have suggested a link between red meat consumption and inflammation, the researchers add. (as)