The Significance of Meat in the Diet
Meat is a nutrient dense food and meat and meat products are an important source of a wide range of nutrients. The protein content of meat is of high biological value with many essential amino acids. However, meat has been criticised for its fat content and addressing concerns with fat intakes, the meat industry has reduced the fat content of meat over the last 20 years. Meat is important source of B vitamins, especially thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Furthermore, meat provides large quantities of bioavailable micronutrients particularly iron, zinc, and vitamins A and D, which may not be obtained from other dietary sources. Conversely, meat consumption has been negatively linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancers, cardiovascular disease and most recently, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Specifically with regard to cancer risk, there is no agreement as to whether it is the type of meat, its fat content and fatty acid profiles, protein or iron content, the formation of carcinogens (e.g. heterocyclic amines) during cooking the addition of nitrates during preparation that are potential risk factors. Meat is a diverse food group encompassing cuts, processed and composite foods. Consequently, not all meat types make similar contributions to the diet or health outcomes. This review examines the potential positive role of meat in the diet while considering dietary recommendations and reviews some of the current epidemiological studies in relation to meat and disease risk.
Keywords: beef, nutrient dense food, vitamins, dietary source, protein, haem iron, micronutrients, cancer
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