Eating red meat may make you more hungry

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Aug 28, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

If you're a fan of steaks, you might want to rethink your food choices as a new study shows that consuming red meat may increase your hunger hormone, according to Men's Fitness. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found that "heavy meat consumption" suppresses the appetite-regulating hormone, leptin.

According to Wake Health, iron is a mineral that the human body cannot excrete, therefore if a person has a lot of dietary iron intake, the levels of leptin in his body may decrease which will result in increased appetite and the risk for overeating.

Men's Fitness reports that the study involved feeding mice high (2,000 mg/kg) and low-normal (35 mg/kg) iron diets for 60 days. After two months, results showed that the mice fed with a high-iron diet had 115 percent increase in amount of iron in their fat tissue and a 42 percent drop in leptin levels in their blood, compared to their counterparts with a low or normal iron diet.

Don McClain, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center on Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study explained: "We showed that the amount of food intake increased in animals that had high levels of dietary iron. In people, high iron, even in the high-normal range, has been implicated as a contributing factor to many diseases, including diabetes, fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s, so this is yet another reason not to eat so much red meat because the iron in red meat is more readily absorbed than iron from plants."

Ferritin blood tests, which measure the amount of iron in the body, were done on 76 human participants in another clinical study that verified the animal model test results.

According to McClain, "We don’t know yet what optimal iron tissue level is, but we are hoping to do a large clinical trial to determine if decreasing iron levels has any effect on weight and diabetes risk."

"The better we understand how iron works in the body, the better chance we have of finding new pathways that may be targets for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and other diseases," he added. 

Speaking of other diseases, the consumption of red meat has been linked to certain cancer risks, according to a study done by researchers at the National Cancer Institute.

According to ABC News, study lead author and epidemiologist Amanda Cross of the NCI said: "Red and processed meats have been associated with an elevated risk with colorectal cancer. Our findings for colorectal cancer are consistent with the recommendations from the recently published World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research to limit consumption of red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb."

Cross explained further: "Our study also suggests that individuals consuming high quantities of red meat may be at an elevated risk for esophageal, liver and lung cancer."

Those who are eager to build muscle are recommended to have other sources of protein, such as eggs, tuna, beans and greek yogurt, among other healthier alternatives.

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