Red meat and its constituents of heme iron or free iron have been the target of scrutiny related to their purported association to many chronic diseases. However, in contrast, red meat provides a rich source of nutrition. In 2007, Al Tappel hypothesized that the mechanistic explanation for the adverse impact of iron and heme iron could be the strong influence these substances have in initiating and promoting oxidative stress. Also, there is an emphasis on the importance of dietary antioxidants in the modulation of these adverse effects. The goal of this argumentative review is to provide an update of the importance of dietary red meat for health, and the hypothesis that oxidative stress initiated by dietary iron and heme iron may be related to chronic diseases, with a particular emphasis on recent research that impacts the paradigm. We also examine potential dietary changes that could substantially modify the potential adverse outcomes of chronic diseases initiated by heme iron mechanisms, e.g., consumption of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Keywords: antioxidants; fruits and vegetables; heme iron; oxidative stress.