Meat consumption and our health - does it have an impact?

People are biologically adapted to a diet that includes meat and it plays an important role in a healthy and balanced diet. In fact, some nutrients found in meat and other animal-source foods are not always easily obtained (or even obtainable) from plant-based foods.

Meat is an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals, and essential micronutrients that can easily be absorbed by the body. A 100g portion of red meat for example will provide around 25% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B5 and B6, and two-thirds for vitamin B12.

Diets poor in animal-source foods can lead to various nutritional deficiencies. Studies have shown that low-meat diets may pose risks for the development of the brain and reproductive system. Indeed it is recognised that animal-source foods are essential in the first 1,000 days of life for infants, and for the skeleton and brain development of pre-adolescents.

There are several important bioactive compounds in meat and processed meat products such as vitamin B1, iron, zinc, choline, L-carnitine, conjugated linoleic acid, glutathione, taurine and creatine, which have been studied for their physiological properties.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), for example, has drawn significant attention in the last two decades for its variety of biologically beneficial effects. CLA modulates immune and inflammatory responses and improves bone mass, while carnosine possesses strong antioxidant and anti-genotoxic activities, including the anti-aging of cells.

In summary, we have developed as omnivores and meat has been a central component of our diet for millions of years. Meat and processed meat products can be safely consumed as a part of healthy and balanced diets.

Should dietary guidelines recommend low red meat intake?
Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017