What Science Has to Say About Red Meat
By Rochelle Bilow
We know that red meat tastes great, and that’s reason enough for us to dig into a medium-rare steak with gusto. But in the last few decades, there’s been as much talk about its health benefits and/or risks as its flavor. Either red meat will lower your cholesterol and help you slim down (some studies say), or it’ll set you on the fast track to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (according to other studies). What’s a diner to do? Before you swap that sirloin for shiitakes, hang on just a moment. We’re looking to find an answer once and for all: Is beef good for you or bad for you? What does science say about red meat?
It’ll Stop Your Heart! Or Maybe Not!
One of the biggest complaints about red meat is that it’s bad for your cardiovascular health. In 1999, a study that compared heart disease in vegetarians, regular meat eaters, and occasional meat eaters found that vegetarians experienced the lowest rates of ischemic heart disease (hardening of the arteries). But another study conducted that year claimed that because saturated fats are to blame for heart disease, meat-eaters can happily live in health—so long as they consume leaner cuts. Shortly after, in 2000, the Weston A. Price Foundation spoke out against the red-meat naysayers, claiming that it’s not steak and lamb chops but refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils that are actually the cause of heart disease.
In 2004, research showed that women who consume excessive red meat are more likely to contract type-2 diabetes. Add that to a study conducted in 2009, which found that those who consumed red meat (beef, lamb, and pork, according to the researchers) were 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease and cancer. Instead of cutting out meat completely, the researchers suggested baking and poaching the meat rather than grilling or frying it. It would seem that if we just cut back on the burgers and poached our hot dogs, we’d be in the clear. (And in fact, earlier this summer we took a look at the science behind grilling and health—you can read it here.)