In the case of Spain, recent guidelines for sustainable eating mandate a maximum, not a minimum, of three servings of meat per week, favoring poultry and rabbit.
Caught in the crossfire between those who advocate red meat as a staple food for man and those who advocate limiting (even avoiding) their consumptionThose of us who are trying to understand all this monumental mess have no choice but to read, listen and try to “separate the wheat from the chaff” using common sense (which is not easy). Dietitian, Doctor of Nutrition (CIAL) and professor at the Universities Francisco de Vitoria (UFV) and Camilo José Cela (UCJC) in Madrid Miguel López Moreno refutes the arguments of those who consider rib eye to be an elixir of health.
- On what basis can we say that we should eat the way our ancestors did 40,000 years ago?
- The expression “meat made us human” is common. However, there are still many unresolved questions regarding the diet of our ancestors. A major study published last year questions whether the physiological changes identified in Homo Erectus, such as brain development, are indeed associated with meat consumption, as some have suggested. Despite this, relying solely on evolutionary issues to establish dietary recommendations is currently risky and dangerous. On the one hand, at this time we are facing challenge to feed more than 8,000 million peopleTherefore, priority must be given to the most sustainable and healthy agricultural and food systems. In this sense, the proposal of grass-fed as a solution is a chimera, since with the current consumption of meat, it would not be practical to transfer it to this type of production. From a health standpoint, while there may be slight nutritional changes in grass-fed meat, such as a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, that alone does not make it healthy compared to other protein sources. On the other hand, it is usually called high consumption of meat in some tribes (e.g. the Maasai) as examples of a healthy diet. However, in these cases, we must bear in mind that a high prevalence of aortic fibrosis and the development of atherosclerosis have been identified in various autopsies performed in some of these populations (study).
- Is it true that we are not omnivores?
- In fact, this issue is of little relevance for the purposes of developing public health recommendations. In this sense, much of the scientific literature shows us that reduce consumption of animal products in favor of consumption of plant products has verifiable beneficial effects on our health and the environment.
- Should you eat red meat?
- Absolutely not. What’s more, cutting it out and increasing your protein intake from whole vegetables significantly reduces your risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, as shown in studies like the one published in December 2020.
- So, what would be the recommended portion?
- Less is better. health risks outweigh potential benefits obtained from the content of some interesting nutrients, which in most cases we can get from other foods. The only exception would be vitamin B12 of microbial origin, which is produced in the stomach of ruminants. If you do not eat red meat, you would prefer vitamin B12 supplements as it is a safe and harmless option. For all these reasons, all health and public health authorities set recommendations for maximum red meat consumption, but not minimum. In the case of Spain, the latest guidelines for sustainable eating recommend not a minimum, but a maximum of three servings of meat per week. give preference to poultry and rabbit meat.
- What are we risking if we cross the line?
- There is a substantial increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, two major chronic non-communicable diseases. We must not forget that an increase in red meat consumption means, in turn, a cessation of consumption of other interesting foods, such as legumes. Thus, the effect is doubled, derived from the harmful effects of eating red meat, as well as from the benefits that we cease to receive by not eating these other foods.
- Juan Bola argues in his book Evolutionary Nutrition that there is not enough scientific research to support its negative impact on our health. What do you think?
- I find it striking that in a book that uses so many scientific references, no allusion is made to the numerous clinical trials that have confirmed how Red meat consumption increases levels of various cardiovascular risk factors., such as total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol, in relation to vegetable protein intake. If we look at long-term epidemiological studies, it has been reported that replacing red meat consumption with plant-based proteins reduces the risk of various diseases associated with these risk factors. Due to the lack of clinical trials that are not epidemiological and link red meat consumption to cancer risk, this indicates limited knowledge of their design and procedure. On the one hand, clinical trials tend to be short-lived, making it difficult to study a condition such as cancer, which has a long latency period. Similarly, all clinical trials must pass an ethics committee, and in this sense, studies involving chronic exposure to potentially carcinogenic compounds are not permitted for ethical reasons. Or perhaps, in order to find out the carcinogenic effect of tobacco, participants were intentionally exposed to high doses of tobacco throughout their lives?
- Aren’t we “destined” to eat legumes? Can they harm us?
- This belief stems from the presence in these products of various antinutrients, such as lectins, phytates, or oxalates, which can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, so some suggest that they may have negative health effects. For this reason, last year we published a study in which we analyzed all the scientific literature on the subject and were able to show how, in the context of a diet in which various plant products are processed or culinary, these possible negative effects are minimal. We must not forget that the concentration of most of these compounds is significantly reduced during processes such as soaking (bean soaking is recommended for this reason), boiling, fermentation, etc. Moreover, most of the current scientific evidence reports how increasing the consumption of legumes, especially in relation to red meat, it has many positive effects on health and reduces the risk of various diseases.
- Is there real pressure from the food industry to become slaves to fast digesting carbohydrates?
- This speech grabs my attention when the reality is that when we analyze the data, the meat industry is by far the most powerful nationally in the food sector, which can mean a lot of power. This is evidenced by various reports that indicated how The meat lobby has used different strategies for years to make recommendations for reducing red meat consumption from a health and environmental perspective. Just as I found out in a recent study, the meat industry is funding various studies of dubious scientific methodology with the intention of getting results that support their interests.
- Is the classic food pyramid outdated?
- The food pyramid is a way of presenting dietary recommendations and may vary depending on the country in question. I think I would give him increased focus on eating whole vegetables and, in particular, legumes, a food group that is condemned in many cases.
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