High intake of red meat is tied to high LDL cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while The World Organization classifies processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means there's strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer.
As if we needed another reason to cut back on red and processed meat, a new Israeli study has just unveiled that these meats can contribute to an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Keep reading for the full findings as published online in the Journal of Hepatology.
New study ties red and processed meat to an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The study was carried out by researchers at the School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa. The team looked at about 800 participants between ages 40 and 70, some of whom had NAFLD or insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes
The participants reported on their meat consumption and cooking methods. Frying and grilling to a level of well done or very well done were considered to be unhealthy cooking methods, as they produce pro-inflammatory compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
The team found that participants who consumed a lot of meat were mainly male, slightly younger, had a higher body mass index (BMI) and caloric intake, and a worse metabolic profile. Those who had a high intake of red and processed meat were also more likely to have NAFLD and insulin resistance, regardless of how much saturated fat
and cholesterol they consumed and other risk factors, such as BMI.
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What’s more, participants who consumed large amounts of meat cooked using unhealthy methods, and those already diagnosed with NAFLD who also consumed high levels of HCAs, had higher odds of having insulin resistance.
“Unhealthy Western lifestyle plays a major role in the development and progression of NAFLD, namely, lack of physical activity and high consumption of fructose and saturated fat
,” said lead investigator Professor Shira Zelber-Sagi.
Swap red and processed meat for healthier ‘white’ meat
Although red meat is high in nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin B12 and zinc, you should still consume it in moderation. Reduce your red and processed meat intake by swapping them for white meat, such as chicken, fish and turkey.
Another way to be healthier is to steam or boil your food instead of grilling or frying meat at a high temperature until it’s very well done.