Lean red meat is a good source of protein, energy and some fatty acids.
The facts on eating red meat
Lean red meat is not only a good source of protein and energy, but also has benefits in avoiding heart disease, however, consumption of animal fat should be reduced overall.
7 November 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
Health conscious consumers are often concerned by debates about how much meat is healthy, what kind is best for them and whether to eat it at all.
These attitudes have developed since the 1950s, when the western world became aware of the association between coronary heart disease, the consumption of fats (particularly animal fat) and high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Protein, fat and energy
Red meat is an excellent source of protein and energy, but it also supplies around 30 to 35 per cent of the 100-130 grams of fat that Australians consume each day.
Because it is energy-rich, fat from all food sources supplies about 40 per cent of our energy needs, although it only makes up 15 per cent - by weight - of the food we eat.
Consumers are concerned about how much meat is healthy, what kind is best and whether to eat it at all.
Nutritionists believe that to avoid a number of major diseases such as diabetes, obesity, some cancers, hypertension or heart disease, we should lessen our fat consumption by approximately 25 per cent.
Susceptibility to heart disease
It is possible to lower the risk of death from heart disease, brought on by atherosclerosis over many years, by following a diet that is low in fat, or one offering a high proportion of polyunsaturated fats from plants or fish.
Atherosclerosis can lead to death by coronary occlusion and irregular beating of the heart. Such arrhythmia can also occur spontaneously leading to sudden cardiac death.
Susceptibility to this latter form of heart disease has also been associated with the consumption of animal fat. Research at CSIRO has found that plant oils and marine (fish) oils reduce this risk.
It is believed that the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in these oils are instrumental in reducing arrhythmia of the heart. To some degree similar fatty acids are found in the structural fats of red meat.
Work at CSIRO has also shown that lean red meat (which has had the outer fat removed) is effective in lowering cholesterol. It is not the meat, but the visible fat of meat, that is the cause of concern.
It appears possible that lean red meat could diminish the susceptibility of humans to sudden cardiac death.
Lean meat - consumption and production
Lean red meat is not only a good source of protein and energy, but also has benefits in avoiding heart disease.
Consumption of fat however, must be reduced.
Public demand presents a challenge to farmers and scientists to jointly explore ways and means of producing this essential food efficiently.
Although processed meat with high fat content and/or preservatives has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of cancer of the colon, this risk does not appear to apply to red meat in most studies.
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Thornton RF, et al. 1987. Fat content of popular cuts of meat: cooked and raw. CSIRO Food Research Quarterly. 47(2): 30-37. June.
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