Meat has been consumed since prehistoric times. But despite this long embedded history dating back to archaic humans, present day questions whether or not it poses health risks.
Meat intake is also often associated with men, which likewise dates back to paleolithic times. Research explores societal stigmas of meat consumption, too.
Find out the links between meat intake and men, including history, health risks, and current recommendations.
Meat Intake & Men: History, Risks, and Recommendations
Meat intake is deep in history, while the potential risks are ongoing. This has sparked dietary recommendations regarding how much meat one should eat.
A History of Meat Intake
Historically, men hunted large game. Women, on the other hand, would assist in cooking the meat while gathering plant-based foods as a supplement.
Fast forward to today, meat is still primarily male-dominant. Research published in Frontiers in Psychology examined the attitudes both men and women have about meat intake. Based on the study, men exhibited stronger implicit associations between meat and healthiness than women.
Both sexes linked meat more strongly with "healthy" than "unhealthy" concepts. The concept of "healthy" was associated to terms such as "virile" and "powerful," suggesting a meat-masculinity link.
Meat is often marketed as a male food and women are more likely to consume a plant-based diet. And whereas men are becoming more interested in becoming vegetarian, they may not be so likely to do so.
Societal Stigmas of Meat Intake
According to a study at the University of Southampton, men who want to reduce meat consumption are embarrassed to eat vegetarian or vegan food in public. This serves true even for men who do not like meat, find it upsets their stomach, or have been asked by a doctor to reduce meat intake.
But the researchers found socializing was the barrier between men enjoying a more plant-based diet. Dr. Emma Roe spoke, "What we have discovered is that many men are interested in eating less meat, they just need social permission to do so – and as more men make vegetarian and vegan choices, that permission is becoming more readily available."
Should men really give up meat as a dietary choice, though? Nutrition experts warn about the potential risks of high meat consumption and health problems.
Red Meat Health Risks
Meat comes in many different forms, including white and red meats. It is red meat, however, that tends to be stigmatized related to potential health concerns.
Red meats are animal muscle meats that include beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat with some favored more than others. These meats can also be processed using salting, curing, and fermenting process to enhance flavor and increase preservation.
Processed meats can include red meats, such as bacon and hot dogs. However, white meats such as turkey bacon, ground chicken, and other poultry products can also be classified as processed meats.
According to the American Cancer Society, almost 39 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. Cancer mortality (or death) is higher among men than women.
Many influences can increase the risk of cancer, including genetic and environmental factors. Lifestyle factors, including diet, can increase cancer risk as well.
The World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) suggests red meat is probably carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. This is mostly specific to colorectal cancer with some evidence for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
Processed meat, on the other hand, is deemed carcinogenic to humans. The World Cancer Research Fund likewise reports there is evidence that red or processed meat are both causes of colorectal cancer.
However, new research on red and processed meat guidelines suggests these recommendations are primarily based on observational studies. These sorts of studies cannot conclude cause and effect.
Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to use glucose as energy and blood sugars rise mostly related to insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is mostly caused by lifestyle choices such as a poor diet and being sedentary.
Eating meat has also been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. What's more, research in the British Journal of Nutrition found plant and egg proteins could be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Like cancer, there are several risks for heart disease. However, heart disease can be majorly prevented through lifestyle changes.
The risk is mostly increased due to elevations in blood lipids meat can cause, as well as obesity risks. However, newer research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests eating red meat can lower heart disease risk.
Researchers found those who ate a greater amount of red meat had greater reductions in cholesterol levels. LDL or "bad" cholesterol, one of the strongest predictors of cardiovascular disease, also improved with higher intakes of red meat but not in those consuming lower intake. All blood pressure parameters improved independently of the red meat intake amount.
However, it is important to mention the diet was a Mediterranean-style eating pattern that is rich in whole, plant-based foods while an emphasis on healthy fats.
Meat Consumption for Men
Overall, red meat can fit into a balanced diet for both men and women. Besides, meat is a great source of protein, iron, vitamin B12, and other nutrients that have a host of health benefits.
But to lower the risks of diseases and premature death, health experts do recommend these tips to make the most out of meat intake:
• Limit processed meats: As a whole, consumers should limit processed meats to once or twice per month.
• Moderate red meat intake: The study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did not promote eating red meat in excess. However, it did suggest 18-ounces of lean, unprocessed red meats.
• Choose lean cuts: Lean cuts of meat helps to reduce saturated and overall fat content. Pork tenderloin, sirloin, and skinless chicken are great examples of a lean cut.
• Select grass-fed when available: Grass-fed products has shown to offer greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that helps fight against inflammation, compared to grain and corn-fed products.
• Balance a healthy diet: A nutrient-dense, whole foods eating pattern takes priority over diets rich in highly processed and packaged foods. Incorporate more whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy fat sources. Limit packaged and boxed products that tend to be loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats as well.
All-in-all, eating meat can be a healthy part of a balanced diet with consideration. However, diet is only a fraction of health risks and benefits.
Men should likewise participate in regular physical activity, manage stress levels, and ensure adequate sleep. Taking part in these confounding factors can improve overall health and quality of life.