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Two new scientific reviews examine meat’s role in healthy diet

processed meat bacon sausages
Study shows Americans, on average, consume products at recommended levels.

The Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education has released two new expert-authored scientific reviews about the role of products like bacon, deli meats, sausage and cured meats in a healthy diet and how these products are formulated and produced.

“Should We All Be Eating Less Meat? Exploring the Science & Controversies Surrounding Meat” and “Understanding Processed Meat” are both authored by award-winning nutrition expert Kathleen Zelman.

“Health professionals are bombarded with information about meat and poultry from a variety of sources, and these papers provide a strong scientific summary of meat’s role in the diet,” said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the foundation. “We hope they will be a valuable resource for those tasked with addressing consumer questions about meat and poultry.”

“Should We All Be Eating Less Meat?” looks at current dietary patterns as outlined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and found that most Americans are not overeating protein foods from meat, poultry and eggs. It evaluates the health benefits of meat consumption, the evidence related to health concerns tied to meat as well as the potential health risks of eliminating meat from the diet.

That review concludes that “lean meats, in controlled portions, consumed within limits for sodium, saturated fats and total calories, can be a part of a healthy eating pattern. Overall healthy dietary patterns, including a wide variety of foods in the context of a healthy lifestyle, are more important to good health and the best dietary advice.”

“Understanding Processed Meat” evaluates common meat processing methods, the ingredients used, the role of nitrates and nitrites in meat curing and the evidence linking processed meat to cancer.

“Clearly, a diet containing excessive processed meats is not healthy nor is it recommended -- just as any imbalanced diet is not recommended. Nevertheless, processed meat can fit into a healthy dietary pattern when consumed in moderation,” Zelman wrote in the review. The paper also notes that Americans, on average, are consuming these products at recommended levels.

Both papers were provided to dietitians at the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics' Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago, Ill., during the fall of 2017. They are available at meatpoultryfoundation.org and www.meatpoultrynutrition.org.

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