The association between red and processed meat consumption and iron intakes and status among British adults

Public Health Nutr. 2003 Jun;6(4):341-50. doi: 10.1079/PHN2002442.


Objective: To examine the association between consumption of red and processed meat (RPM) and iron intakes and status in adults.

Design: Further analysis of the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, a cross-sectional study of 2197 adults aged 16-64 years carried out in 1986/7.

Subjects and methods: Adults (836 men and 838 women) with serum ferritin measurements, who were not taking iron supplements, were classified into four groups according to RPM consumption (from 7-day weighed records). Iron absorbed was estimated from equations based on haem and non-haem iron and the influence of iron stores.

Results: Women who ate least meat (<90 g day-1) had three times the risk of a low iron intake (below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake) compared with high consumers of RPM (>140 g day-1). Men who ate no RPM also had a higher risk of low iron intake. Using an estimate of minimal values for iron losses, there was a twofold difference in the potential risk of negative iron balance between women non-RPM consumers and high RPM consumers. Status measurements indicated that, among women, anaemia was least prevalent (6%) among high consumers compared with 12-14% among average RPM consumers. Inverse trends were also observed for serum ferritin in both sexes.

Conclusions: Low consumption of RPM has implications for iron intakes and iron status in men and women, since the risk of negative iron balance and its consequences are increased. Dietary messages must consider these implications and provide appropriate advice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Records
  • Diet Surveys
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Heme / administration & dosage
  • Heme / pharmacokinetics
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Meat Products
  • Meat*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Hemoglobins
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Heme
  • Ferritins
  • Iron