As people across the world focus on food and agriculture as a significant part of the covid-19 response, it is important to bear in mind that all countries experience malnutrition in at least one of its forms. Malnutrition is, in fact, among the top risk factors in disease burdens.
Every year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) places food security, nutrition, and agricultural transformation on the global agenda.
The widespread concurrence of overweight and nutritional deficiencies, referred to as the “triple burden” of malnutrition, is a consequence of dietary deficiencies and excesses.
At the individual level, malnutrition manifests as under-nutrition, over-weight and obesity, unbalanced dietary intake and hidden hunger in the form of micronutrient deficiencies.
These conditions have high costs in both the short and the long run. In the short run, reduced productivity of the workforce results in low levels of output produced, and in the long run, it increases the cost of health care due to the disease burden associated with poor nutrition.
Many benefits to eating red meat
Optimal nutritional status is more than the absence of disease or infirmity. It contributes to a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
Signs of malnutrition include wasting (severely underweight for age), stunting (short for age), underweight (weight for age) as well as overweight and obesity and are caused by imbalances in macronutrient or micronutrient intake, or both.
Undernutrition includes energy, macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrates contributing to total energy intake) and micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies.
Food products from animals provide a variety of macro- and micronutrients. Red meat contain both high quantity and quality protein as it contains all the essential amino acids in the right proportions.
As a natural source of protein, amino acids and an array of essential fatty acids, beef contain large quantities of high biological value protein proven to assist in maintaining lean body mass.
Shake off excess weight
Reasons why beef may help maintain lean mass and reduce excess weight include the increased satiating properties of protein which may explain decreased food intake, as well as the effect that increased protein intake has on thermogenesis, body composition and decreased energy efficiency.
In South Africa eight micronutrients, namely vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, iron and zinc were identified as lacking in the population diet. Beef contains a highly-bioavailable form of iron and zinc as well as B-vitamins including Vitamin B6 and B12, the latter only found in red meat and red meat products. Beef is nutritious and plays an important role in a balanced diet.
Prof. Hettie Schönfeldt is the research manager of the Red Meat Research and Development South Africa. She is an advocate for nutrition research, promoting excellence through the creation, translation, and dissemination of science-based information into policies, programmes and training programmes, both nationally and internationally. Her focus is on affordable food diversity underpinned by nutrient composition and delivery.