The relationship has been hotly debated by scientists and been a topic of much confusion among the public; however the study by Plant & Food Research, a member of the government-owned Crown Research Institute, might offer hope to those are concerned about gut problems as a result of eating red meat. The secret, it seems, to healthy digestion is combining protein with the right vegetables.
Potatoes could be the answer
Scientists studied the effects of red meat consumption with and without fermentable carbohydrates on the large bowel health of 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 it 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 byproducts 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” said Dr Chrissie Butts, who worked on the research. “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.”
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“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 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 that were 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.
It is intended that the research will form the starting point to develop functional red meat products with the right kind of fibre to help promote a healthy and balanced micronutrient diet. The study was supported by Plant & Food Research’s own internal funding as part of a Strategic Science Investment.