New Zealanders can rest assured their enjoyment of beef and lamb doesn't need to change anytime soon despite the predictions of a new US study suggesting harm from eating large amounts.
The new study, published today, suggests eating high amounts of red and processed meat are associated with increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, but the results have little significance to Kiwi meat eaters. New Zealanders eat red meat within national and international guidelines, based on a large body of scientific evidence.
The methods used to try and predict risk of death from cancer and heart disease in this study are known to be inaccurate and unreliable. The researchers themselves acknowledge the limitations of how they measured the amount of specific foods eaten, including red meat.
As well as the questionable assessment methods, this type of study can only show an association between red meat and health outcomes, not that one causes the other. Other similar studies have shown no link at all. There are a number of risk factors for cancer and heart disease; obesity remains the most prevalent. Singling out one food in a condition influenced by such a wide range of factors is misleading.
The scientific and medical communities agree eating lean red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet is beneficial to health. It is an excellent source of protein, readily available iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin D and a range of B vitamins, as well as being a low fat food.
"The results of a single study never change dietary advice or recommendations, and this is no exception. New Zealand beef and lamb contribute significant amounts of several nutrients to the diets of New Zealanders. Kiwis should therefore continue to enjoy red meat 3-4 times a week as part of an overall healthy lifestyle," concludes Fiona Carruthers, Nutrition Manager, Beef + Lamb New Zealand.