Red meat is an excellent source of iron and vitamin B-12, but too much can put you at risk of metabolic syndrome.
A study says eating too much red meat can increase your chance of getting conditions that lead to heart disease and diabetes. Middle-aged people who ate at least two servings of meat per day increased their risk of metabolic syndrome by 26 percent. The research was published in the January 22, 2008, issue of Circulation.
What did the study find?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent: This study says metabolic syndrome is a problem in the United States because of the way we eat: lots of red meat, lots of processed meat, and too much fried food. Researchers found eating two servings of meat per day, such as burger patties, increased the risk of metabolic syndrome by 26 percent. Forty-seven million Americans have metabolic syndrome, which means they have at least three risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. These include conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high sugar levels, and either too much bad cholesterol or too little good cholesterol.
Red meat isn't the only factor. Fried food led to a 25 percent greater risk, and diet soda increased the risk by 34 percent. This was unexpected, and it will require more research to explain. When it comes to red meat, the study doesn't say you should stop eating it. Just don't eat too much of it -- less than three servings per week. Red meat is an excellent source of iron, which is good for making red blood cells. And it has Vitamin B-12 -- you need this to keep your nerve cells healthy.
So how do we lower our risk of getting metabolic syndrome?
Gupta: This study found that dairy seemed to decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome by 13 percent. People who consumed three servings of dairy per day had lower risk when compared with people who had it only twice a week. You can also lower your risk factor by eating lots of whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and by exercising and not smoking.
Are there other foods you can eat besides red meat to get protein?
Gupta: Try eating fish or white meats such as chicken breast. These are lower in saturated fat, a food component that leads to high cholesterol. You can also get protein from beans, peas and lentils. Nuts are also a good source of protein.
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