Adding Lean Beef To A Healthy Diet

Results from a new study show that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes were similar when participants consumed a healthy US-style eating pattern with and without an additional 5.3 ounces of lean beef.

Lean Beef

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The added beef replaced carbohydrates, primarily refined starches. All participants were considered at risk for type 2 diabetes and followed a healthy diet as outlined by the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and separately a similar diet modified to have a larger portion of calories from lean beef in random order.

Most indicators of metabolic and cardiovascular health, such as insulin sensitivity and LDL cholesterol, did not differ between the two diets. The only significant difference observed was a shift toward a greater percentage of cholesterol carried in larger, more buoyant LDL particles during the higher beef condition. This difference is potentially important because larger, more buoyant LDL particles may be less likely to promote atherosclerosis,"

Kevin C. Maki, Ph.D., Study Director

"This study is important because it shows that red meat can be part of a healthy eating pattern," said Dr. Maki, "Our study compared US-style healthy eating patterns with red meat intake that was below-average for the United States (about 1.2 ounces per day), versus a similar diet that contained an additional 5.3 ounces per day of unprocessed, lean beef. All foods consumed by the subjects during each diet period were provided by the research team."

The 33 study participants (26 women and 7 men) completed the crossover, controlled-feeding trial, where each subject was randomly assigned to follow one eating pattern for 4 weeks, followed by a washout of 2 weeks, then consumption of another diet for 4 weeks.

Beef is a nutrient-dense food with high-quality protein, iron, and zinc, but results from some observational studies have suggested that red meat consumption is associated with increased type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease incidence.

"Our study showed that increasing intake of lean beef, as a replacement for refined starches in a healthy diet, did not worsen cardiometabolic risk factors. While this research is important for those who choose to include red meat in healthy diets, we are not encouraging people to increase red meat consumption or advocate that those who would otherwise consume a vegetarian-style eating pattern to begin eating red meat."

The results are published online at the Journal of Nutrition. The study was funded by the Beef Checkoff and was completed by Dr. Maki and his team at Midwest Biomedical Research.

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