Meat: The balance between nutrition and health. A review

Meat Sci. 2016 Oct;120:145-156. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2016.04.008. Epub 2016 Apr 13.


Fresh and processed meats provide high biological value proteins and important micronutrients. On the other hand, a working group of IARC recently classified processed meat as 'carcinogenic to humans' and red meat as 'probably carcinogenic to humans' for colorectal cancer, appealing to critically consider the future role of meat in a healthy diet. This manuscript first evaluates the contribution of meat consumption to the supply of important micronutrients in the human food chain, and the extent to which this can be improved by primary production strategies, and impacts on human health. Secondly, the IARC hazard analysis of the carcinogenicity of red and processed meat consumption is discussed, arguing that having more insight in the mechanisms of the association offers opportunities for mitigation. It is advocated that the benefits and risks associated with red and processed meat consumption should not necessarily cause dilemmas, if these meats are consumed in moderate amounts as part of balanced diets.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; Long chain PUFA; Meat; Trace elements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / analysis
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Meat Products* / adverse effects
  • Meat Products* / analysis
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage*
  • Micronutrients / analysis
  • Nutritional Status
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Red Meat* / adverse effects
  • Red Meat* / analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / analysis


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Micronutrients
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid