Health & Spirit

Quinn on Nutrition: Science of meat

Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald on

Published in Nutrition

Yes, there really is a college major in the science of meat. And it has a lot to do with the science of nutrition, I was informed by Hannah Kesterson, a beautiful young lady who will soon graduate from Colorado State University with a master of science degree in Animal Science, Meat Science and Human Nutrition. Wow.

I was curious why she decided to go into this particular field of study? "My interest in agriculture, food science, and health started when I was young and grew as I learned more about these topics in the 4-H program," she said. (Hannah's dad, by the way, is a veterinarian and her mom is a registered dietitian.)

Through her studies, she found she had an affinity to science. "I realized that my love for both agriculture and nutrition could possibly be combined, especially in a culture where people are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from."

We sure are. I asked her to share some of what she has learned about the science (and nutrition) of meat.

"Beef is a nutrient dense food," she began. "It provides more than ten essential nutrients which play a role in muscle maintenance, brain, and immune function."

"There is often a stigma associated with beef due to the presence of fat in this protein source, especially saturated fatty acids. However, less than half of the fatty acids in beef are saturated. And about one-third of this saturated fat is stearic acid, which has been shown to be neutral on blood cholesterol levels. Of the total fat (in beef) about half is monounsaturated fatty acids (the same type of fat found in olive oil), which can help reduce (bad) LDL cholesterol in the blood." Choose lean cuts of meat, she advises.

Still, there's a lot of scary news about beef out there.

First consider the source of the information, she advises. "While technology is a great tool, it allows people to freely share information even on topics they are not well-informed about."

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"There have been several studies looking at the impact of beef on health issues. For example, results of the BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study showed that eating a healthy diet including daily servings of lean beef can help people to lower LDL and total cholesterol, and improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Also, the WISE (Weight Improvement, Satisfaction, and Energy) study compared two diet plans: one plan was high in protein and rich in lean beef, while the other plan restricted overall red meat intake. Researchers found that both were effective in decreasing body weight and improving health. These indicate that for those who want to include it, meat can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle."

More questions on this topic to come. Stay tuned...

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to

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