Scientists from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid-IdiPaz and elsewhere found that eating red meat may increase frailty risk in older women.
Red meat is a nutrient-dense source of protein fundamental for older people, but red meat is also high in detrimental components, including saturated fat.
It is unclear whether habitual red meat intake is associated with the risk of frailty.
In the current study, researchers aimed to examine the prospective association between the consumption of total, unprocessed, and processed red meat and the risk of frailty in older adults.
They analyzed data from 85 871 women aged older than 60 in the Nurses’ Health Study.
The team examined the intake of total, unprocessed, and processed red meat from repeated food questionnaires administered between 1980 and 2010.
Frailty was defined as having at least three of the following five criteria from the FRAIL scale: fatigue, low strength, reduced aerobic capacity, having ≥5 chronic illnesses, and unintentional weight loss ≥5%.
The researchers found during 22 years of follow-up, there were 13 279 incident cases of frailty.
Women with a higher intake of red meat showed an increased risk of frailty. Increased intake of total red meat, unprocessed red meat, and processed red meat were linked to higher frailty risks.
When each component of the frailty syndrome was individually examined, the team found each of them was associated with total red meat intake.
They also found replacing one serving/day of unprocessed red meat with other protein sources was linked to a much lower risk of frailty.
The risk reduction estimates were 22% for fish and 14% for nuts, while for the replacement of processed red meat, the percentages were 33% for fish, 26% for nuts, 13% for legumes, and 16% for low-fat dairy.
Based on the findings, the team concludes that habitual intake of unprocessed and processed red meat is associated with a higher risk of frailty.
Replacement of red meat with other protein sources might reduce the risk of frailty. These findings are in line with dietary guidelines promoting diets that emphasize plant protein.
The research was published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia, and Muscle and conducted by Ellen A Struijk et al.
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