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Red and Processed Meat Consumption Linked with Liver Disease, Insulin Resistance

The Western diet is heavy in red and processed meats, and a recent study suggests that eating a lot of red and processed meats may be associated with an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and insulin resistance.


Participants in the study included approximately 800 people who took part in the main analysis and a sub-sample of 357 people who completed a questionnaire about meat consumption. All of the participants were between 40 and 70 years old and underwent colonoscopy screening at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Tel Aviv Medical Center between 2013 and 2015. They also all agreed to participate in metabolic and hepatic screening.


The researchers used ultrasonography and homeostasis model assessment to determine NAFLD and insulin resistance. They user food frequency and detailed meat questionnaires to determine meat type and cooking method. Unhealthy cooking methods were classified as frying or grilling to well done or very well done.


The researchers diagnosed NAFLD in 38.7% and insulin resistance in 30.5% of the participants. Generally the proportion of meat intake was one-third red meat and two-thirds white meat. People who ate a lot of meat were slightly younger, mostly male, and had a higher body mass index (BMI) and caloric intake, as well as a worse metabolic profile.


After examining the data, the researchers determined that eating high amounts of red and processed meats was associated with a higher risk of NAFLD and insulin resistance regardless of saturated fat and cholesterol intake and other risk factors, including BMI. 


Researchers from the University of Haifa led the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 19, 2018, in the Journal of Hepatology.


Red meat is rich in iron and packed with protein, which is essential for muscle building. Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and blood cells healthy, and supplies zinc, which helps keep the immune system working properly. However, eating too much fatty red meats could contribute to negative health problems.

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