MOST Nigerians eagerly look forward to having another meal of local meat delicacies such as suya, isi-ewu, nkwobi, kilishi, shaki and ‘roundabout.’ The consumption and marketing of these red meat-based meals have become big business in most restaurants across country.
But scientists have raised a fresh alert that eating even small quantities of processed meat such as suya, kilishi, nkwobi, isi ewu, bacon, sausages or salami can significantly increase the risk of dying early from cancer and heart disease.
However, another source says red meat is good but should be cooked with spices, in moderation, not roasted or fried as in suya, isi-ewu, nkwobi, kilishi.
According to the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) and the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), red meat is a valuable source of iron, zinc and Vitamin D, which is vital for health, especially in pregnant women and infants.
They are unanimous that red meat can be part of a balanced diet. “But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down as regularly eating a lot could increase risk of bowel cancer.”
To an associate professor of medicine and consultant in endocrinology, diabetology and metabolism division at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Fasanmade Olufemi, red meat refers to beef, mutton, lamb, pork and venison while white meat refers to chicken, fish and seafoods.
According to Fasanmade, red meat contains most of the essential amino acids for growth and development. “It thus protects against malnutrition in children and growing adults. In pregnant women too, the red meat serves as a good source of protein to help blood formation, bone formation, prevent anaemia in pregnancy and helps in fetal development,” he said.
But according to the endocrinologist, on the other hand, red meat, which is rich in cholesterol, can predispose to high cholesterol levels if consumed in large quantities. He warned that the entrails of red meat like liver, kidney, brain, intestines are even worse in this regard as they contain more fat than the fleshy parts of red meat.
According to Fasanmade, red meat consumption also leads to gout and kidney stone formation if done in large amounts. He said burning of red meat was also associated with production of carcinogens like nitrosamine, which has been implicated in cancer development.
The diabetologist advised: “So if you are to consume red meat as an adult, take small quantities, avoid the entrails and delicacies of red meat and go for the lean cuts. The isi-ewus, oriri na nkwobis, shaki and ‘roundabout’, which are Nigerian delicacies, should be eaten sparingly. Fish, particularly scaly fish, is a better alternative and seafoods, except prawns, have relatively lower amounts of harmful fats.”
To the Executive Director, Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) and the Vice-President (Elect), World Heart Federation (WHF), Geneva, Dr. Kingsley K. Akinroye, the consumption of red meat has long been associated with risk of heart health due to increase of saturated fats and cholesterol.
Akinroye said the latest study identified other ingredients present in red meat that may contribute to heart disease; apart from the red meat salt’s content, influence of genetic risk factors or the cooking procedure that may all account for the increased risk of heart disease.
“This is a potentially innovative research which needs to be replicated by other research scientists in developed and developing countries; and to determine how the resultant knowledge may be translated into action to benefit the population,” he said.
Author of this article: By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Emeka Anuforo (Abuja)