Less meat, more health – low-meat diets can be a plus for some diseases. Because substances in steak and fillet promote inflammation, vein calcification and metabolic disorders
We should consume about 30 kilograms of meat a year, i.e. almost 600 grams per week.In fact, according to the Meat Atlas 2018, an average of almost 60 kilograms per person per year end up on our plates. This has an impact on health, including being overweight, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. There is even an increased risk of cancer if you constantly overeat steak and sausage.
Arachidonic Acid Promotes Inflammation
But does the reverse also apply that vegetarians are healthier? Does a plant-based diet relieve symptoms of illness? Does it work like medicine? “Vegetarian nutrition itself has no therapeutic influence on diseases,” says Professor Olaf Adam, internist, nutritionist and president of the German Academy for Nutritional Medicine. However, there are diseases on which high consumption of meat has an unfavourable effect.
“These are mainly those in which inflammatory processes play a role, such as arteriosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, ” says Adam. The reason: Meat contains arachidonic acid. If you take in too much of this unsaturated fatty acid, it promotes inflammatory processes in the body. According to an article in the journal of the German Nutrition Society, 88 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis state that meat triggers relapse in them.
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Alternatives To Steak
Therefore, if you want to do without meat entirely, you should eat enough eggs, milk and cheese. Nutritionists speak of ovo-Lacto-vegetable food. This ensures that you get the substances from animal products the body needs: vitamin B12, iron, trace elements.
Another expert tip: eat high-fat fish – herring, mackerel, tuna or salmon. They contain the unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid EPA. As an antagonist to arachidonic acid, it inhibits inflammation. “This fatty acid also keeps the vessels flexible,” explains Adam. And thus prevents increased blood pressure values.
Protect the veins
In addition to arachidonic acid, a high LDL cholesterol level also causes the veins to become stiff and narrow over time. Those who already have an increased value should be cautious with foods containing cholesterol. In addition to eggs and some dairy products, this primarily includes meat and sausage.
“If LDL cholesterol accumulates on the vascular walls, inflammatory processes can develop”, explains Professor Gunter Eckert, head of the working group Nutrition in Prevention and Therapy at the Institute for Nutritional Science at the University of Giessen.
Inflammation, Calcification, Metabolic Disorder
Inflammatory processes, in turn, promote arteriosclerosis. The risk of heart attack and stroke is then significantly increased. “At present, arteriosclerosis is no longer understood as pure vascular calcification, but as a result of inflammatory processes on the inner walls of the vessels,” explains Professor Andreas Michalsen, chief physician of the Naturopathy Department at the Immanuel Hospital in Berlin.
Another substance that you should keep an eye on when it comes to meat are so-called purines. “They are broken down into uric acid in the body,” says Eckert. Suppose there is too much uric acid in the blood, crystals form, deposited on joints and tissue. This can trigger the metabolic disorder gout in people with a corresponding predisposition. Anyone who is at risk or who has been diagnosed should therefore eat as little meat as possible.
Roast pork, meat salad, grilled sausages – too much of these dishes are also harmful to health because obesity can develop, especially in connection with high consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Then the risk of type 2 diabetes increases. “It creates insulin insensitivity,” says Eckert. Insulin ensures typically that body cells absorb glucose, i.e. sugar. If it can no longer do this, the result is increased sugar levels in the blood.
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No Need To Forego Meat
A healthy diet is: “The less meat, the better, the more vegetables, the better,” says Michalsen. If you follow a vegan diet, i.e. avoid all animal products such as milk and eggs, you have to keep an eye on your supply of nutrients. These include vitamin B12, iron and zinc, and vitamin D, iodine, calcium, and proteins.
But nobody needs to change their eating habits completely to prevent illness. “Meat is not poison,” emphasizes Adam. If you like to eat it, you don’t have to do without it altogether.