In a new study, researchers found that halving the amount of red and processed meat in the diet can have a significant impact on health.
This can reduce the amount of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood which cuts the risk of developing heart disease.
The study was done by a team from the University of Nottingham.
Red and processed meat include fresh pork, beef, lamb and veal and meats that have been smoked, cured or preserved (other than freezing) in some way.
These meats are typically high in saturated fatty acids which cause an increase in LDL cholesterol.
This is the “bad” cholesterol that collects in the walls of blood vessels, where it can cause blockages and raise the chance of a heart attack.
Increasing awareness of the risks associated with eating red and processed meat has led to a growing number of people adopting vegetarian and vegan diets, which cut out meat completely.
In the study, the team wanted to find out if reducing the amount of red meat eaten, rather than cutting it out completely, would have a positive effect on the health of the subjects taking part.
They tested 46 people who agreed to reduce their red meat intake over a period of 12 weeks by substituting it for white meat, fish or meat substitutes, or by reducing the portion size of their red meat.
These people kept a food diary during the study and were given blood tests at the beginning and intervals throughout.
Results showed that the most significant change was a drop in the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, and those with the highest levels, in the beginning, had the biggest drop.
Overall there was an average drop in LDL cholesterol of approximately 10% with men (who tended to have the highest starting values) seeing the biggest change.
The team says that in relatively young and healthy people, making relatively small changes to red and processed meat intake can lead to big changes in LDL cholesterol.
if this can be maintained over a period of time, it could potentially reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
The lead author of the study is Professor Andrew Salter, from the University of Nottingham.
The study is published in the journal Food & Function.
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