According to new research published in the journal Nutrients, cooking red meat at high temperatures (grilling, roasting, or frying) is associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
It may be best to moderate red meat consumption and perhaps switch to a slower cooking method at a lower temperature.
Much like eggs and coffee, the role of red meat in a healthy diet—especially for athletes like cyclists—has been debated, with many studies advising a more modest intake of beef, pork, and lamb compared to white meat. Now, there’s one more piece of evidence for the “be cautious” side, focusing specifically on what happens when you fire up the grill.
Published in the journal Nutrients, a recent study tested the impacts of two diets, with one high in red meat and processed grains, and the other consisting of whole grains, dairy, nuts, legumes, and white meat like chicken and fish. The first group cooked their meats at high temperatures—by grilling, roasting, and frying—while the second cooked meats by steaming, boiling, stewing, and poaching. All 51 participants got to switch to the other diet plan after one month.
Researchers found that the red meat, particularly when cooked at high heat, created compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can accumulate in the body at a significant level. These compounds have been associated in previous research with increased risk of heart disease and stroke, since they may contribute to the stiffening of blood vessels in the heart, as well as increased inflammation and oxidative stress (a harmful chemical process in your body).
“The study showed that a high red meat diet contributes to a higher level of AGEs compared to a diet of legumes, chicken, and low-glycemic-index carbohydrates,” study coauthor Peter Clifton, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of South Australia, told Bicycling. “Although frying, grilling, and searing might be preferred cooking methods when eating red meat, they might not be the best cooking option for long-term health.”
However, he added, there are caveats here. One is that correlation does not equal causation, so he emphasizes that although high AGEs levels have been seen in those with cardiovascular issues, that doesn’t automatically mean they increase disease risk.
Also, it might be the cooking method and not just the meat type that’s a big culprit, Clifton added.
“Any food, including chicken, cooked at high temperatures in a dry environment can cause AGE production,” he stated. “But, again, the connection between dietary AGEs and disease risk has been cause for a lot of debate over the past 10 years.”
The takeaway, according to Clifton, is this: It may be best to moderate your red meat consumption and perhaps switch to a slower cooking method at a lower temperature.
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