The consumption of red meat (Beef, veal, lamb and mutton) contributes several important nutrients to the diet, including; essential amino acids, vitamins (including vitamin B12) and minerals (iron and zinc). These nutrients present in the red meat are all essential for optimal health throughout the life. Red meat is a significant portion of total dietary intake in many populations, and its consumption is increasing globally. The potentially adverse health effects of red meat consumption have been increased in the last few decades.
Processed red meat differs from unprocessed meat, it undergoes several treatments to extend its shelf life (curing, smoking, salting or the addition of chemical preservatives). Additives are also introduced to improve flavor, color and quality. Previously reported in the Encyclopedia of meat science, processed meat usually contains much more sodium and nitrites/nitrates than unprocessed meat, which may be deleterious for health. During cooking of meat at high temperature more than 200 ºC, some hazardous compounds (Heterocyclic aromatic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are formed which can cause cancer.
Some international food organizations advised the intake of meat on daily basis as a valuable source of protein. The Canadian and Irish dietary guidelines in 2016 suggested 50–75 g of cooked meat per day as a protein food group serving. The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (US DGA) recommend 155 g/day from the protein food group, but do not suggest a specific serving size for meat (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2015). In 2016 an international organization from England “Public Health England” recommended to limit red and processed meat consumption to 70 g/day. The Swedish paper reported that, based on at least six combined studies, summary results for the consumption of unprocessed red meat of 100 g/day increased the risk of (stroke, breast cancer, cardiovascular mortality, colorectal and advanced prostate cancer); for the consumption of 50 g/day processed meat, the risks were increased for most of the studied diseases (prostate cancer, cancer mortality, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer, stroke, cardiovascular mortality and diabetes).
The red meat, particularly lean cuts, could play an important role in a healthy diet if recommended servings will be taken. On the other hand, high consumption of red meat, and specially processed meat is associated with the increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality. It seems that the consumption of red meat is also high in different regions of Gilgit in the form of nasaloo (tradition dried meat) or in fresh form but its consumption varies from one region to the other. So it is necessary to create the awareness among the public about the serving size of meat group in each meal otherwise, considering the physiological perspectives, the red meat consumption has to be limited or move to other source of protein rather meat by a certain group of people. It is advocated that the benefits and risks associated with red and processed meat consumption should not necessarily cause dilemmas, if the meat is consumed in moderate amounts as part of balanced diets.
The contributor is a PhD scholar, specializing in Meat Science and Nutrition, at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences (GSCAAS).