The article continued in a similar vein about how if you ate more than a certain amount of red meat you'd die early but if you ate different sources of protein instead you wouldn't. It begs the question: How you would know if you'd died earlier than you might otherwise have done? It even said: "Nuts were said to reduce the risk of dying by 20%." Surely that did not intend to imply that some people who ate nuts would not die at all?
The Times' journalist's suggestion that roast beef should be swapped for nut roast may not be such a great idea for those wishing to control their calorie intake when lean beef has fewer calories than nut roast.
Moreover, only about 50% of the fat in beef is saturated and half of that is stearic acid, which is rapidly converted in the body to oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. That, together with another fatty acid constituent of beef fat, palmitic acid, is believed to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. The rest of the fat in beef fat is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. So, altogether, we have a rather healthy combination. It is a similar story for lamb fat.
All meat lovers should rejoice, particularly if they are eating grass-fed beef or lamb. Apart from having the healthiest fat composition, they also contain healthy proportions of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Most British beef and lamb are grass-fed but in the US where the paper referred to at the beginning of this article was written most animals are not grass fed.
Research at Ohio State University has reported that people whose diets contain too much omega-6 are more susceptible to a range of degenerative diseases, including heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils contain high levels of omega-6 so, if the Ohio research stands, replacing animal with vegetable fats in the diet is not necessarily the best option.
The information on that composition is contained in Jennifer McLagan's book: Fat, an appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient. I always turn to it for advice to balance the anti-meat stories, particularly those relating to diet and health.
The chemical composition of fat in meat is a matter of fact from which you can form your own opinion when people tell you that fat in meat is unhealthy compared with vegetable oil.
Clare Cheney is the director general of the Provision Trade Federation.