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Go Nuts (or Fish, or Chicken) continued...

Other experts agree.

“These lifestyle and diet changes really do make a difference,” says Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. He is also clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

“I think everybody would be better off if they consumed a plant-based diet. But even modest changes -- substituting chicken for beef, for example, or fish for chicken -- also play an important role in reducing risk,” says Ornish, who wrote a commentary on the study but was not involved in the research.

The study and commentary are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Industry Response

Beef producers point out that this is a specific type of research called an observational study, which can’t prove cause and effect. They say other studies have shown that eating lean beef can be part of a healthful diet.

“If there is one thing scientists agree on, it is that responsible dietary advice must be drawn from a look at the entire body of evidence, including rigorous, gold-standard randomized control trials when they are available,” Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, executive director of Human Nutrition Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says in a written statement.

“In the case of beef, there are several randomized control trials which have convincingly shown that lean beef, when included as part of a healthy, balanced diet, improves heart health by lowering cholesterol,” she says.

“Most recently, the BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study showed that eating lean beef every day, as part of a heart-healthy diet, could reduce [unhealthy] LDLcholesterol...” McNeill says.

Why Worry About Red Meat?

Red meat is high in protein, which helps maintain muscle. It’s also high in heme iron, which can be helpful for those who suffer from anemia, or iron deficiency.

But along with its virtues, red meat also is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, for example, which are thought to contribute to heart disease and cancer.

Processed meats like bacon and salami are often high in sodium, which may contribute to high blood pressure. They also contain preservatives like nitrites, which have been linked to cancer, such as pancreatic, kidney, and bladder cancers.

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