How many of you are fans of the juicy meat that satisfies taste buds as well as hunger? Almost all those who eat animal-based foods, isn’t it? Mankind ate food for energy and well-being long back. But now, the advent of processed foods and food adulteration has made us all wonder whether the food that we eat will do good to our health or affect our very own wellness. We are in such a pathetic state after all! Meat is one of the good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals in the diet when we make the right choices. By right choices, I mean choosing those that are rich in nutrients and low in cholesterol content. Chicken, pork, beef and lamb are rich sources of protein, iron and vitamin B12 but beef, lamb and pork (all of them are red meats) are also high in saturated fat compared to chicken always having the risk of raising blood cholesterol levels. Opting for meats that are high in saturated fat doesn’t go well with the body and even puts it at a risk of heart disease. Taking care of the type of meat that you choose and how you cook can make a big difference to saturated fat content. Ignoring both and consuming more portions than recommended increases the risk of all-cause mortality, cancer, CVD and diabetes mellitus. We do have numerous studies linking meat intake, especially red meat intake with increased risk of weight gain and obesity. Each of the different meat varieties have different macronutrient composition and animal protein, the main macronutrient component of meat, has been linked with weight gain. Contrarily, animal protein also increases satiety levels and there are intervention studies reporting beneficial effects of high protein diets on fat loss and weight maintenance. What we need is to know more about each meat type, its protein content and composition to understand the effect of meat intake and weight changes.
Body composition of each individual is different and evaluating body composition can determine whether weight gain due to meat consumption is due to fat mass, free mass or both. Kids around the world suffer from overweight and obesity issues due to different reasons which includes meat consumption too. Such weight gain during younger stages of life follows the person through adulthood paving way for numerous health problems. Identifying the factors contributing to such weight gain issues and identifying meat as one of the important contributors can go a long way towards preventing overweight issues. Longitudinal studies on the association between meat intake and body composition during adolescence helps in correlating weight gain-related problems as there are increased chances of rapid weight gain at this stage of life.
The longitudinal study in Germany used data from 2 birth cohort studies GINIplus (German Infant Nutritional Intervention plus environmental and genetic influences on allergy development) and LISAplus (Influence of Lifestyle-Related Factors on the Immune System and the Development of Allergies in Childhood plus the Influence of Traffic Emissions and Genetics). The study included healthy full-term newborns and information about these infants were collected using questionnaires and physical examinations. A self-administered food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) provided details about dietary intake for a follow-up period of 10 years. All the participants were asked to report estimated frequency and portion sizes of intake of 80 food items in which there were four types of meat types defined namely processed meat (salami, liver sausage, cold meat, bratwurst and wiener- or pork-sausage), red meat (pork, beef, veal), poultry and other meats (offal and ready meals with meat). Each of the meat type’s protein content was calculated and represented in kcal/d. information on daily intake of essential amino acids (EAA), saturated fatty acids (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) was also obtained from the FFQ. Data on total meat intake, intake of individual meat varieties and their protein content was calculated and included in the analysis. Fat mass and fat-free mass values were obtained using which fat mass index (FMI) and fat-free mass index (FFMI) were calculated. Blood samples were obtained using which total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride (TAG) values were measured.
The study included data from 1610 participants (797 females and 813 males) of which 16.7% females and 22.5% males were overweight (according to WHO guidelines) by age 10. Those children who belonged to the highest meat intake tertile were likelier to be overweight by age 10. Consumption of meat and meat protein at age 10 years with FMI and FFMI at 15 years of age was analyzed by linear regression models. Minimally adjusted models (MIN) were first fit after which main models (MAIN) were fit for analysis. Results showed that:
Meat and dairy are two major sources of animal protein and yet another study showed that increased intake of protein from meat as a protein source during puberty was related to a higher FFMI in young adulthood.
Adolescence is the period of maximum growth and the health of kids at this stage definitely has a role in affecting their health in the future. Meat is an excellent source of protein and individuals are welcome to eat meat. But be careful on what type of meat you choose and how you cook it. Go for the leanest options while buying meat. For instance, more white area on a meat denotes more fat such as in the case of streaky bacon compared to back bacon. If you are buying turkey or chicken, get it without the skin as these are lower in fat. Avoid consumption of processed meat products such as sausage, salami and beefburgers as they have higher fat and salt content. While cooking too, grill your meat rather than frying it and avoid adding extra oil. Try using more vegetables and less meat to make the dish healthier.
Prospective Associations of Meat Consumption during Childhood with Measures of Body Composition during Adolescence: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-016-0222-5
Prospective Association of Protein Intake during Puberty with Body Composition in Young Adulthood: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.20516
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