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By Julia Ries
- Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but it's still unclear why too much may be harmful to our health.
- Researchers looked at the impact of meat on our health and found that eating too much unprocessed and processed meat increases your risk of heart disease and death.
- It may also mess with our gut microbiome, something scientists are just learning is an important component for heart disease risk.
Health experts have long suspected that eating too much meat can have a detrimental effect on our health.
Eating meat was linked to a slightly higher risk.<p>Researchers looked at the health data of nearly 30,000 adults who had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at baseline and provided follow-up data for up to three decades.</p><p>Information about the participants' <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/diet" rel="noopener noreferrer">diets</a> was self-reported via a food frequency questionnaire or diet history.</p><p>The researchers had standardized the serving sizes: One serving constituted 4 ounces of unprocessed red meat or poultry, or 3 ounces of fish. Regarding processed meat, one serving was 2 slices of bacon, 2 links of sausage, or 1 hot dog.</p><p>Then, the researchers tracked the number of cardiovascular events, including strokes, heart failure events, and CVD deaths.</p><p>The researchers found that people who ate two servings of red meat — but not fish — a week were linked to a 3 percent higher risk of heart disease and premature death. That risk went up to 7 percent for processed red meat.</p><p>Those who ate two servings a week of poultry were associated with a 4 percent higher risk of heart disease, though the researchers say there's not enough evidence to make a clear recommendation about poultry.</p><p>The researchers found no associations between fish consumption and heart disease or death.</p>
What is it about meat?<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/meat-good-or-bad" target="_blank">Meat</a> is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but it's still unclear why too much of it may be harmful to our health.</p><p>"The biological mechanisms underlying the associations of unprocessed red meat and processed meat intake with heart disease have not been fully understood," Zhong said.</p><p>Zhong suspects it may be due to the high levels of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, heme iron, and added sodium in certain types of meat. These dietary factors are all associated with a handful of heart health conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, vascular stiffness, insulin resistance, and diabetes.</p><p>Dr. Nicole Harkin, a board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist with <a href="http://www.cardiologistmidtownnyc.com/" target="_blank">Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates</a>, says eating a lot of red meat increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two big risk factors for heart disease.</p><p>"Consumption of meat also may have other adverse effects on the heart and vascular system that we are still investigating, such as adversely affecting the lining of the blood vessels, called endothelial dysfunction," Harkin added.</p><p>It may also mess with our gut <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/microbiome">microbiome</a>, something scientists are just learning is an important component for heart disease risk, Harkin said.</p>
Do you need to give up meat?<p>So, is there a safe amount of meat intake? According to Zhong's new study, most meat consumption carries a higher risk.</p><p>"Our study did not find a safe consumption amount for unprocessed red meat and processed meat. Only zero consumption was associated with no increased risk of heart disease and premature death," Zhong said.</p><p>Harkin advises her patients to eat red meat rarely — about once to twice a month, at most — and to avoid processed meat.</p><p>She also recommends eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans — all things that can help lower your risk of heart disease and keep you healthy.</p><p>"While we do not know an exact amount of meat that is 'acceptable' (and this probably varies from person to person due to other factors such as genetics, environment, and other lifestyle choices), this study and others indicate a dose response relationship: The more meat consumed, the higher the risk of heart disease," Harkin said.</p>
The bottom line<p>New research has found that eating too much unprocessed and processed meat (like pepperoni, bologna, and deli meats) increases your risk of heart disease and death.</p><p>This new study follows a controversial report that came out November 2019 suggesting that lowering your meat intake has no effect on heart health.</p><p>Health experts suspect meat has this effect because it contributes to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two huge risk factors for heart disease.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><a href="https://www.healthline.com/" target="_blank"><em>Healthline</em></a><em>. For detailed source information, please view the original article on </em><em><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/red-meat-processed-meat-is-still-bad-for-your-health" target="_blank">Healthline</a></em><em>.</em></p>
- Controversial Study Dismisses Public Health Risks of Meat ... ›
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- Even 'Moderate' Consumption of Red and Processed Meat ... ›
- Cambridge University Takes Red Meat off the Menu - EcoWatch ›
Winter is upon us and so is the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D, which is made in our skin following sunlight exposure and also found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna and sardines), mushrooms and fortified dairy and nondairy substitutes, is essential for good health. Humans need vitamin D to keep healthy and to fight infections. The irony is that in winter, when people need vitamin D the most, most of us are not getting enough. So how much should we take? Should we take supplements? How do we get more? And, who needs it most?
Where to Get Your Vitamin D<p>Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin since it is made in the skin after exposure to sun. The same UVB rays that cause a sunburn also make vitamin D. Sunscreen, darker skin pigmentation, clothing and reduced daylight in winter diminish the skin's ability to make vitamin D. The people who experience the biggest seasonal swings in vitamin D levels are fair-skinned individuals <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10040457" target="_blank">living in the northern regions</a> of the U.S. and at <a href="https://doi.org/10.3945/an.117.015578" target="_blank">higher latitudes around the globe</a> where there is very little daylight in winter.</p><p>But those most at risk for low vitamin D levels are people of color and people living at higher latitudes. Dark-skinned individuals are more likely than fair-skinned individuals to be low for vitamin D year-round because the darker skin blocks the UVB rays from producing vitamin D. However, even in dark skinned individuals, vitamin D is lowest in the winter.</p><p>In the winter, in addition to high vitamin D food, adults should take additional vitamin D from foods and/or supplements to <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en1" target="_blank">get at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D.</a> People who have dark skin or avoid sunshine should eat more vitamin D year-round.</p>
Vitamin D's Importance for Bones and Microbes<p>Originally, doctors thought that vitamin D was only important for bone health. This was because the vitamin D deficiency caused bone diseases like <a href="http://doi.org/10.1172/JCI29449" target="_blank">rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults</a>. However, in the 1980s scientists discovered that <a href="https://www.jci.org/articles/view/111557" target="_blank">immune cells</a> <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/224/4656/1438" target="_blank">had receptors for vitamin D</a>.</p><p>My group's research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/10409238.2019.1611734" target="_blank">maintaining health in the gastrointestinal tract</a>. <a href="https://iai.asm.org/content/84/11/3094" target="_blank">Higher levels of vitamin D</a> reduce <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2019.04.005" target="_blank">susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease</a> and <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2016.53" target="_blank">Crohn's disease</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00001" target="_blank">gut</a> and <a href="http://doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00679-16" target="_blank">lung infections</a> in animals and people.</p><p>My colleagues and I have discovered that one of the ways vitamin D functions is by keeping the microbes in the gut healthy and happy. Vitamin D <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1535370214523890" target="_blank">increases the number and diversity of microbes</a> living in the gut, which together reduce inflammation throughout the body.</p><p>Low vitamin D levels are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2015.34" target="_blank">associated with inflammatory bowel disease</a> in humans. Researchers have found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs00535-017-1313-6" target="_blank">inflammatory bowel disease patients in Japan</a> have more symptoms in winter than during other seasons.</p>
Why is vitamin D more important in winter?<p>In the winter, humans are exposed to more infections and spend less time outside. Exactly how much vitamin D healthy adults should have is debated. Some authorities recommend from <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrendo.2017.31" target="_blank">200 IU per day to 2,000 IU per day</a>. In the U.S., the <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">Institutes of Medicine</a> recommends 600-800 IU per day for adults, while the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.96.12.zeg3908" target="_blank">Endocrine Society states that optimal vitamin D status</a> may require 1500-2,000 IU per day. In the winter, people have a reduced ability to make vitamin D when they go outside, so amounts of at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D from food or supplements would help maintain vitamin D status at summer levels.</p><p>But, just like many things, <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">too much vitamin D can be harmful</a>. Vitamin D toxicity does not result from too much sun or food. Because of the risk of skin cancer, dermatologists and other health professionals do not recommend unprotected sun exposure to boost your vitamin D. Instead they suggest supplements. But vitamin D toxicity can occur if an individual takes too many.</p><p>The experts that set the national intakes of vitamin D for the U.S. recommend that adult individuals take <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">no more than 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D</a> to avoid toxic side effects. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium from your diet, but when vitamin D is too high, calcium levels in the blood go up and that can lead to kidney disease.</p><p>By consuming more vitamin D during the winter your gut microbes will be healthier and you'll be more resistant to infection and inflammation year-round.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Amy Jamieson
Indigestion, a bacterial infection, or constipation: Thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, there are widely available medications to combat all of these things.
But when you take these medications, you may be getting more than you bargained for.
- When's the Best Time to Consume Probiotics? - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Surprising Things That Harm Your Gut Bacteria ›
By Haixia Yang
The antimicrobial chemical triclosan is in thousands of products that we use daily: hand soaps, toothpastes, body wash, kitchenware and even some toys. Work in our lab suggests that this compound may have widespread health risks, including aggravating inflammation in the gut and promoting the development of colon cancer by altering the gut microbiota, the community of microbes found in our intestines.