There are many things you can do to help maintain your urologic health. Drinking plenty of water is key, as well as eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and practising good urinary hygiene. Another way to keep your urologic health in check is to reduce the consumption of animal protein – particularly red meat. Let’s take a look at some of the ways eating red meat can affect urologic health.
Excessive consumption of red meat has been linked with some cancers, particularly prostate cancer. The World Health Organization has classified red meat, such as pork, beef and lamb, as a probable cause of cancer. Then, there are processed meats, such as bacon, lunch meat and salami. These have been tagged as a ‘group 1’ carcinogen – meaning it does cause cancer.
This is likely caused by chemicals called heterocyclic amines that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. Red meat is also high in saturated fat, which has also been linked with aggressive cases of prostate cancer.
High consumption of red meat has also been linked with chronic kidney disease. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those whose diets did not include red meat had less albumin (a waste product that indicates kidney damage) than those who ate red meat, concluding that red meat consumption impacts kidney function.
Another study by the Duke-NUS Medical School and Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore also found that red meat intake (the study focused on pork) was strongly associated with an increased risk of renal disease and the loss of normal kidney function.
“Our findings suggest that patients with chronic kidney disease or the general population worried about their kidney health can still maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources,” said Dr Woon-Puay Koh, professor in the Office of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.
Red meat is also linked to bladder disease and conditions. Research conducted by the University of Southern California found that the dietary protein and dietary iron in red meat may form carcinogens called N-nitroso compounds, which can increase the risk for bladder cancer, particularly for those who are already at risk of cancer due to vulnerability to the effects of carcinogens. In addition, the heterocyclic amines formed during cooking may also increase the risk. Meats are also acidic, which lowers the bladder pH and causes bladder irritation.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia – enlargement of the prostate – is common in men as they get older. Studies have found that a diet low in red meat (but high in protein and vegetables) may reduce the risk of symptomatic BPH. This is because eating red meat elevates levels of arachidonic acid in your body, which increases inflammation, irritating the prostate. And, as we mentioned, red meat is high in saturated fats, which is linked to obesity – a key risk factor for BPH.
These are just a few ways that eating red meat is linked with poor urologic health. Of course, red meat is a great source of nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, but moderation is the key. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends consumption of no more than 455g of red meat a week. If you are at a higher risk of developing a urologic condition, consider replacing red meat entirely with a plant-based diet.
Dr Arianayagam is an experienced urologist and specialist urological surgeon based in Sydney. He works from his urology clinic in Bella Vista and at both public and private hospitals across Sydney and treats all kinds of prostate conditions.
If you have any further questions about urology or would like to book an appointment, please feel free to call today.
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