Tuck into a steak and live longer.
That's the take home message from a group of leading scientists who fear red meat has been cast as a villain by fake food fans.
Eating red meat increases your overall health and life expectancy, this latest research points out in the International Journal of General Medicine this week.
Plant-based diets do not replace the nutritional benefits of meat, the study found.
Many converts to vegetarian and vegan diets falsely believe non-meat diets provide better health benefits.
Research led by the University of Adelaide and the University of New South Wales examined the overall health effects of total meat consumption in more than 170 countries around the world.
The scientific team wanted to test recent claims which had "thrown a negative spotlight on meat consumption in the human diet".
University of Adelaide researcher in biomedicine, Dr Wenpeng You, says humans have evolved and thrived because of their significant consumption of meat.
"Looking only at correlations of meat consumption with people's health or life expectancy within a particular group, and or, a particular region or country, can lead to complex and misleading conclusions," Dr You said.
"Our team broadly analysed the correlations between meat eating and life expectancy, and child mortality, at global and regional levels, minimising the study bias, and making our conclusion more representative of the general health effects of meat eating."
It is estimated 20-30 per cent of human life expectancy is determined by genetic factors, and 70-80 per cent is determined by environmental factors, such as diet.
Countering claims from the plant-based food industry, the research says the consumption of energy from grains and tubers does not lead to greater life expectancy.
The study supports red meat industry claims total meat consumption correlates to greater life expectancy, independent of the competing effects of total calories intake, economic affluence, urban advantages, and obesity.
"While detrimental effects of meat consumption on human health have been found in some studies in the past, the methods and findings in these studies are controversial and circumstantial," Dr You says.
University of Adelaide Emeritus Professor, Maciej Henneberg says humans have adapted to meat-eating over a long time.
"Meat of small and large animals provided optimal nutrition to our ancestors who developed genetic, physiological, and morphological adaptations to eating meat products and we have inherited those adaptations," Professor Henneberg says.
Studies in some populations in developed countries have associated vegetarian and vegan diets with improved health.
"I think we need to understand that this may not contradict the beneficial effect of meat consumption," nutritionist Yanfei Ge said.
"Studies looking into the diets of wealthy, highly educated communities, are looking at people who have the purchasing power and the knowledge to select plant-based diets that access the full nutrients normally contained in meat. Essentially, they have replaced meat with all the same nutrition meat provides."
Meat is still a major food component in the diets of many people around the world, University of Adelaide biologist Dr Renata Henneberg said.
She said when all meat types for all the populations are considered, as they were in the study, the positive correlation between meat consumption and overall health at a population level "is not sporadic".
The researchers referred to studies showing cereal-based foods have lower nutritional value than meat.
"While this is no surprise to many of us, it still needs to be pointed out," University of Adelaide anthropologist and biologist at the Polish Academy of Science, Dr Arthur Saniotis, said.
"It highlights that meat has its own components contributing to our overall health beyond just the number of calories consumed, and that without meat in our diet, we may not thrive."
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