Meat and three veg diet may offer more than first thought

9 January 2013

Research suggests beneficial relationship between red meat and potatoes 

The relationship between red meat consumption and gut health is the topic of much confusion among the public and of debate among scientists. However a new study from Plant & Food Research may offer hope to those who love red meat but worry about the effect it may have on their gut, discovering more about the role vegetables may play in promoting healthy digestion of that next steak.

Scientists investigated the effects of red meat consumption with and without fermentable carbohydrates on the large bowel health in rats. The research, published in the Journal of Food Science, suggests that the impact of red meat consumption on bowel health may be reduced by consuming the meat alongside fermentable dietary fibre, such as that found in potatoes.

Fermentable carbohydrates, including most fruits and vegetables, deliver a colonic energy source that produces less harmful by-products than the microbial breakdown of colonic protein for energy.

“The proteins we eat can influence the metabolism of microbiota in our gut and therefore our bowel heath” says Plant & Food Research Scientist Dr Chrissie Butts. “While most proteins are digested and absorbed by the small intestine, undigested protein reaching the large bowel is fermented and can result in potentially toxic compounds.”

“Our research showed that by delivering dietary constituents that supported beneficial bacteria and restricting the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the large bowel, we were able to a have positive effect on the host’s health”.

The 8-week study investigated the effects of cellulose, potato fibre, and potato-resistant starch on a range of gut health indicators in rats fed diets containing cooked red meat. The results showed that dietary combinations of red meat with potato fibre or potato-resistant starch had significant effects in the large bowel, including higher concentrations of beneficial bacteria and positive changes with respect to short-chain fatty acid concentration.

Future studies are now being planned to examine the efficacy of different types of non-digestible carbohydrates in maintaining colonic health during long-term consumption of high-protein diets.

The study was supported by Plant & Food Research’s own internal funding as part of a Strategic Science Investment. This improved understanding of gut activity and the interactions between food and gut microbiota provides the knowledge needed to make healthier food choices for large bowel health. In future developing functional red meat products with fermentable dietary fibre may also help promote a healthy and balanced macronutrient diet.

Contact:
Emma Timewell
Communications Manager, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
EMail: media@plantandfood.co.nz
Telephone: +64-9-925 8692
Mobile: +64-21-2429 365

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