Research: ‘Too much meat can make you old’

Eating red meat, combined with a poor overall diet lacking fruit and veg, increases biological age. Picture: Ruslan Olinchuk
Eating red meat, combined with a poor overall diet lacking fruit and veg, increases biological age. Picture: Ruslan Olinchuk
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Too much red meat and too few fruit and vegetables increases your body’s “biological age”, according to scientists.

Research led by the University of Glasgow found a moderate increase in serum phosphate levels caused by red meat consumption, combined with a poor overall diet, increases biological age in contrast to chronological years of age.

The study found it can also contribute to health problems.

Researchers, who looked at participants from the most deprived to the least deprived in the NHS Greater Glasgow Health Board area, also found that deprived males were the worst affected.

In Glasgow, the difference in life expectancy between affluent and deprived communities is 14 years for men and 11 years for women. This remarkable difference is one of the biggest in the developed world, despite common risk factors for age-associated diseases.

Data from the study suggests accelerated biological ageing, and dietary-derived phosphate levels among the most deprived males, were directly related to the frequency of red meat consumption.

Researchers believe excess red meat particularly affects this group because of their poor diet and “sub-optimal fruit and vegetable intake”.

The research, led by the Institute of Cancer Sciences in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet, a medical university in Stockholm, Sweden, also found high phosphate levels in deprived males correlated with reduced kidney function. In some cases participants displayed underlying chronic kidney disease.

Professor Paul Shiels said: “The data in this study provides evidence for a mechanistic link between high intake of phosphate and age-related morbidities tied to socio-economic status. Our observations indicate elevated red meat consumption has adverse effects amongst deprived males, who already have a poor diet and eat less fruit and vegetables than recommended.

“We think in this group the effects of high serum phosphate intake may be exacerbated. Indeed it’s notable these effects are not apparent among less deprived males, or in females, especially in the context of a more balanced diet.”

Phosphate is naturally present in basic foodstuffs, including meats, fish, eggs, dairy products and vegetables. Intestinal absorption of naturally occurring phosphate is minimally regulated, as absorption is efficient, hence high supplementation results in markedly elevated levels of serum phosphate, which can have adverse health consequences.

Indeed high phosphate levels, as a consequence of dietary intake, have already been linked to higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk, premature vascular ageing and kidney disease.