Good news for America's ranchers: nutrition scientists at Penn State say eating lean beef can reduce health risks including high blood pressure and heart disease.
While researchers say the types and quantities of beef consumed determines whether eating beef is good or bad for you, the recent studies mark the first time since the 1970s that health researchers agree beef consumption can promote good health.
"This research adds to the significant evidence, including work previously done in our lab, that supports lean beef's role in a heart-healthy diet," reports Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State. "This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease."
The American Heart Association (AHA) is currently recommending the DASH eating plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
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According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
People following the DASH diet are encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein predominantly from plant sources, as well as lean beef, regularly to increase maximum heart health benefits.
Both the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Institutes of Health supported and helped to fund the research at Penn State, which has resulted in the DASH eating plan, now recommended by the AHA.
Though people on diets are encouraged to use predominantly plant sources as protein, researchers say recent evidence indicates lean beef can be enjoyed as the predominant protein source in a DASH-like diet, along with fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, to help lower blood pressure in healthy individuals.
The most recent series of research results are good news for the U.S. cattle industry. Industry officials have been battling claims by many nutritionists and health advocates who have long argued that meat products, including beef, present health risks for consumers.
While most farmers and ranchers are aware that over-eating fatty meats and foods with high fat content are harmful to human health, appropriate proportions of lean meats, including beef, provide could good sources of proteins and amino acids. In rural America, it's no secret that adequate physical activity like exercise programs or physical work on the farm or ranch, good diet and maintaining good sleep, and proper rest habits make for a healthy lifestyle.
Kris-Etherton and colleagues tested four different diets during their research including the Healthy American Diet, the BOLD-PLUS diet, the standard BOLD diet, and finally the DASH diet, with 36 different participants ranging in ages of 30 to 65 years. The testing was designed to find the effects of the diets on vascular health.
All participants followed each diet at different times throughout the study period and were randomly assigned to follow each of the four diet plans for five weeks each, with a break of only one week in between each new plan. The blood pressure of each participant was taken at both the beginning and the end of each diet period.
"This evidence suggests that it is the total protein intake, not the type of protein, that is instrumental in reducing blood pressure, as part of a DASH-like dietary pattern," the researchers stated.
The results of the study indicate that a diet consisting of lean beef is as good or better in providing necessary proteins for heart-health and provides additional benefits not available by eating a protein deficient diet absent of lean, high quality meat.
Cattle industry experts say the latest research is a welcome development. The industry has suffered in recent decades from growing opposition to meat consumption by pop culture nutritional trends, by severe drought, forage loss and massive herd reductions, and growing global market pressure.
Results provide good news for American consumers, namely, eating the proper cuts and amounts of high-quality lean beef is good for your health.