Very few dietary topics spark more controversy than consumption of red meat and risk of diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease and diabetes. Most nutrition scientists indicate a high protein diet is essential to promote vibrant health, aid in weight management and lower the risk from metabolic dysfunction. A rapidly mounting body of research now shows that the type and quantity of protein consumed can raise the risk of stroke in a serving-dependent manner.
Researchers conducting a meta-analysis of six large studies conducted in the US, Japan and Sweden over the past decade published the results of their work in Stroke, the Journal of the American Heart Association. Consumption of red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon spike the risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke event.
Dr. Joanna Kaluza of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland noted the findings are “of great public health importance because of the widespread consumption of red meat and the high morbidity and mortality associated with stroke.” The authors explain that eating red meat did not increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Processed and factory farmed red meats dramatically raise stroke risk
The meta-analysis included a total of 329,495 participants and resulted in 10,630 cases of stroke. All of the studies statistically adjusted for age, body mass index, and alcohol consumption, as well as smoking, physical activity, diabetes, hypertension, energy intake, and fruit and vegetable consumption. Each daily serving of fresh, red meat increased stroke risk by 11 percent. Similarly, processed meats increased risk by 13 percent. All meat consumption combined increased stroke risk by 12 percent.
In an effort to explain the results, the researchers suggested a few possible mechanisms to explain the findings, including consumption of high levels of saturated fats, which could lead to a greater risk of stroke from higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The authors also note that red meat contains a high level of heme iron and theorize that “high doses of iron may lead to oxidative stress, a state with increased peroxidation of lipids, protein modification, and DNA damage.”
Excessive consumption of foods high in heme iron lead to the development of many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, neurological disorders, and chronic inflammation. Many research studies fail to account for the type of red meat consumed though, making the false assumption that animals fed fattening grains and injected with growth hormones and antibiotics have the same effect when consumed on human health as grass fed, free range cattle.
Most holistic nutritionists agree that consumption of moderate amounts of red meat fed from certified organic pastures is important for human health. The results of this meta-study confirm that processed meats and factory farmed beef significantly increase risk of stroke in a serving-dependent fashion.
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