Too much red meat could increase 'biological age' of body, study finds
Eating too much red meat and not enough fruit and vegetables could increase the body's "biological age" and contribute to health problems, according to researchers.
Scientists found that a moderate increase in levels of serum phosphate in the body caused by red meat consumption, combined with a poor overall diet, increases a person's biological age, in contrast to their chronological age.
Deprived males were found to be the worst affected by those factors.
Experts describe chronological age as a person's years of age while biological age is more like their "miles on the clock".
The project, led by a team at the University of Glasgow, analysed people from the most deprived to the least deprived areas covered by NHS Greater Glasgow.
The results suggested accelerated biological ageing and diet-related phosphate levels among the most deprived males were directly related to their frequency of red meat consumption.
Researchers believe excess red meat particularly affects this group because of their poor diet and "sub-optimal fruit and vegetable intake".
High phosphate levels in deprived men were also found to be linked to reduced kidney function and even underlying mild to moderate chronic kidney disease.
Professor Paul Shiels, of the university's Institute of Cancer Sciences, said: "Our observations indicate that elevated red meat consumption has adverse effects amongst deprived males, who already have a poor diet and eat less fruit and vegetables than recommended.
"We think in this group the effects of high serum phosphate intake may be exacerbated.
"Indeed, it's notable that these effects are not apparent among less deprived males, or in females, especially in the context of a more balanced diet."
Phosphate is naturally present in basic foodstuffs, including meats, fish, eggs, dairy products and vegetables.
But high phosphate levels, as a consequence of dietary intake, have previously been linked to higher mortality risk, premature vascular ageing and kidney disease.
Prof Shiels added: "Strikingly, many of the subjects had kidney function indicative of incipient or early onset chronic kidney disease.
"It has also not escaped our attention that red meat product quality and preservation may have an impact upon the diets of the most deprived and their associated health."
The research, carried out in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is part of a wider study on the causes of ill health, originally funded by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.
The study, entitled Accelerated Ageing and Renal Dysfunction Links Lower Socioeconomic Status and Dietary Phosphate Intake, has been published in the journal Aging.