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Red meat is yummy, but...

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th March 2009 03:00 AM

A STORY is told of a woman who packed her bags and walked out of her marital home because her husband had not bought meat. Meat is a delicacy. In many societies, any meal served at a function is incomplete without meat.

A STORY is told of a woman who packed her bags and walked out of her marital home because her husband had not bought meat. Meat is a delicacy. In many societies, any meal served at a function is incomplete without meat.

By Arthur Baguma

A STORY is told of a woman who packed her bags and walked out of her marital home because her husband had not bought meat. Meat is a delicacy. In many societies, any meal served at a function is incomplete without meat.

However, health experts say eating red meat in excess increases the risk of developing cancers. Studies have linked pancreatic cancer in men to eating red meat.

A high risk of developing breast cancer in women has also been linked to high intakes of red meat. Other cancers associated with red meat include lung, colorectal, liver and oesophageal.

In nutrition, red meat is synonymous with mammal meat. The United States Department of Agriculture defines red meat as: “All meats from livestock including beef, lamb and pork.

Dr. Hanifa Bachou, a senior nutritionist at Mulago Hospital, advises people to watch the amount of red meat they consume.

“Some people eat meat everyday and at every meal, which is dangerous to one’s health. And this does not apply to meat alone; all foods should be eaten in moderation,” Bachou warns.

She advises that if one eats red meat, it should be done only twice or thrice a week. Bachou says drying meat reduces the dangers of red meat. It removes the fat and cholesterol.

Dr. Charles Mukisa, a medical practitioner, says a person does not necessarily need to eat meat to get proteins. Current recommendations of a 2,000-caloriediet calls for 65g of protein a day, but this does not necessarily need to be derived from meat.

Egg white and soybeans are excellent sources of protein. Nutritionists advise that one chooses meat sources that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in omega-3 fats.

Lean chicken, turkey and high omega-3 fish such as salmon are recommended. Mukisa says not only do the dangers of red meat lead to the development of various cancers, but eating red meat is unhealthy because it is highly acidic.

Chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes begin and thrive in an acidic environment.

Meat is high in iron, which promotes cancer development and the spread and growth of existing cancer. The iron in meat is highly absorbable (80% to 90%).

Prof. Joyce Kikafunda, the president of Uganda Action for Nutrition Society, says red meat should be eaten in moderation and alternated with other foods like chicken and fish.

Bachou says over-consumption of meat is common among the rich and is responsible for the increase of lifestyle diseases. Increase in meat-eating has also been cited as one of the causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Anthony McMichael, an epidemiologist and lead author at the Australian National University in Canberra, with the massive population increase, the average daily global meat intake of 100g per person would have to fall to 90g just to stabilise the present rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Meat consumption is rising in the world, as lower-income countries become wealthier and develop a consumer preference for eating meat,” he says in the Cosmos online magazine.

Dr. Akol Zainabu from the health ministry advises people aged above 40 to desist from eating red meat. If they have to, they should first smoke it. Akol also advises that they eat white meat.

This includes fish, chicken, turkey, tuna and lowfat sausages and hot dogs made from poultry. Scientists say white meat reduces the risk of dying from cancer.

In contrast, consuming too much red or processed meat increases death risk from all causes. It also increases the risk of dying, specifically from heart disease or cancer.

Akol, however, notes that in the Ugandan context, few people can afford to eat excessive red meat. Bachou advises that one can alternate red meat with white meat or plant proteins like beans, peas and groundnuts.

What component of red meat causes cancer? Haem, the pigment in haemoglobin which gives the red colour to blood, is also present in ‘red’ meat.

Scientists in the UK say when haem is broken down in the gut, it forms chemicals called N-nitroso compounds. These damage the DNA of the cells which line the digestive system — damage to DNA is the initial step which leads to cancer.

When the digestive lining is damaged, it reacts by signaling the cells to divide faster to produce new cells. Scientists believe the extra cell division might also increase the risk of cancer developing.

Every time a cell multiplies, it runs the risk of making a copying error in its DNA.

Ben Bella Illakut, lecturer, Uganda Christian University, Mukono
I stopped eating meat in 2005 because I was headed towards disaster. I nearly had a stroke at Wandegeya as I walked home. I felt my head was too light as if I was in a parachute. I immediately sought medical help.

The doctor told me to stop eating anything meaty and drinking milk. I looked at him in disbelief, wondering how I would live without my favourite nyama choma.

Four years later, I am feeling much healthier and happier, thanks to my daily diet of vegetables and fruits. It is wonderful. I have seen my friends in wheelchairs or on crutches — that is likely to happen, especially if you are ageing and eating meat everyday.

Since I stopped eating meat, I feel a lot better and in good health. Recently, I went for a medical check-up and the doctor was shocked that I was healthier than some 20-year-olds who have been to his clinic.

Dan Mbaziira, teacher, Ssaku Senior Secondary School in Luweero
One-and-a-half years ago, I stopped eating red meat because my friend, Mukiibi, had been diagnosed with gout. He now uses crutches and cannot even wear shoes. I eat chicken and plant proteins.

Godfrey Malime, Librarian
I eat meat everyday from January to December. I know the health implications of red meat, but I like the thing. Sometimes I try to get off, but after two or three days, I eat it again. I exercise regularly and eat fruits to keep healthy.

Ronald Kalyango, journalist
I eat meat when there is no fish at the workplace or the market near my home. Doctors say one should avoid meat. It is not hard to keep away from meat if one decides to do it for health reasons.

But beef producers and doctors give contradicting information on the matter. For instance, the Uganda Beef Producers Association says Ugandans eat less meat than they should.

Sylvia Kesiime, a mother
I had joint pain for a long time, but last month when I decided to stop eating meat, the pain ceased. Taking a break off meat has given me relief.

Compiled by Arthur Baguma

Red meat is yummy, but...

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