Could red meat help cure the blues?
Maybe so, according to a new Australian study that suggests red meat may actually be good for one’s mental health.
Red meat has long been cast as a dietary villain linked to heart disease and cancer risk. But the latest study, led by professor Felice Jacka at Victoria’s Deakin University, found that those who indulge in the occasional lamb chop and hamburger patty are less likely to suffer from certain mental health issues than those who cut back on their red meat intake.
According to The Telegraph, the study of 1,000 Australian women showed participants who ate less than the recommended amount of red meat were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety. The Telegraph notes the Australian government recommends eating between 65 and 100 grams of lean, red meat three to four times a week. (Before you take that as justification to gorge on barbecued steak and ribs, keep in mind that’s not a lot. For those who have trouble visualizing that amount, 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces, just under the size of a deck of cards).
“Even when we took into account the overall healthiness of the women’s diets, as well as other factors such as their economic status, physical activity levels, smoking, weight and age, the relationship between low red meat intake and mental health remained,” Dr. Jacka told The Telegraph.
She added that, surprisingly, other forms of protein such as chicken, pork, fish or plant-based proteins did not have the same effect. Vegetarianism was not a factor.
Dr. Jacka suggested that the diets of sheep and cattle could help explain the study’s findings.
“We know that red meat in Australia is a health product as it contains high levels of nutrients, including the omega-3 fatty acids that are important to mental and physical health,” she told the newspaper, noting that Australian sheep and cattle are mostly grass fed. “In many other countries, the cattle are kept in feedlots and fed grains, rather than grass. This results in a much less healthy meat with more saturated fat and fewer healthy fats.”
There appears, however, to be a limit to the mental health benefits of red meat. Regularly eating more than the recommended amount was found to be as potentially bad for mental health as not eating enough, The Telegraph reports.
Would the possible mental health benefits of red meat outweigh your concerns about its link to heart disease and cancer risk?