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Chronic inflammation can harm the body, and doctors often recommend limiting red meat consumption to prevent it. However, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine suggest that red meat might not be as harmful as previously thought.

Red meat doesn’t cause inflammation 

Dr. Alexis Wood, an associate professor of pediatrics – nutrition, emphasized the insufficient research on the relationship between diet, particularly red meat, and inflammation and disease risk. This lack of study can result in public health recommendations lacking strong evidence. To address this gap, her team utilized blood metabolite data to establish a more direct connection between diet and health.

REsearchers examined cross-sectional data from around 4,000 older adults involved in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Cross-sectional data is valuable for studying the impact of diet on health because it captures real-life data from individuals without trying to change their usual lifestyle.

The study aims to facilitate the application of earlier research findings to real-world scenarios by examining self-reported food intake, biomarkers, and dietary intake metabolites in participants’ blood. Notably, plasma metabolites provide insights into the effects of dietary intake on the body’s processing and absorption of food.

No connection between eating red meat and C-reactive protein 

Researchers found that after accounting for BMI, the consumption of both unprocessed and processed red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) was not directly linked to markers of inflammation. They suggest that body weight, rather than red meat, might be the primary factor behind increased systemic inflammation. Notably, there was no connection between red meat consumption and C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of chronic disease-related inflammation.

This study contributes to the growing body of evidence emphasizing the importance of measuring plasma markers like metabolites to assess the relationship between diet and disease risk, as opposed to relying solely on self-reported dietary intake. In summary, this analysis contradicts previous research that had linked red meat consumption with inflammation.

Observational studies cannot prove cause and effect, so researchers suggest conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to confirm findings. RCTs should involve random assignment of participants to either consume a specific dietary factor or avoid it.