Myth: Americans Eat Too Much Meat And Its Saturated Fat Content Leads To Heart Disease


The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans consume five to seven ounces from the Protein Foods Group per day depending upon age, gender and level of activity. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (“NHANES”) indicates that men consume 6.9 ounces of meat and poultry, while women consume approximately 4.4 ounces. 1

And while meat does contain saturated fat, those limiting saturated fat intake should know that approximately 40 cuts of meat qualify for the government definition of “lean” 2 and contain less than 10.5 grams of fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol. Fat in meat also has substantial portions of both mono- and polyunsaturated fat — so-called “good fats” — as well, a fact that many people do not realize.

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The Protein Foods Group of the Dietary Guidelines is the only category consumed in the proper quantity. 3 Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are under-consumed while discretionary sugars and fats are over-consumed.

In terms of saturated fat concerns, a very large 2010 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of Coronary Heart Disease or Cardiovascular Disease. 4

In addition, important new research shows that meals that include meat are associated with a sense of satisfaction and lasting hunger control, which can help prevent the weight gain that can cause weight-related health issues. 5

What many studies have shown, and what common sense suggests, is that moderation in the diet is likely the most prudent approach for a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Pyramid Servings Intakes in the United States, 1999-2002, 1 Day, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, USDA, March 2005 (accessed July 29, 2010).
  2. Code of Federal Regulations, 9CFR317.363.
  3. 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Advisory Committee, Webinar, May 12, 2010.
  4. Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat With Cardiovascular Disease, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 13, 2010 (accessed November 5, 2010).
  5. Apolzan JW, Carnell NS, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. "Inadequate Dietary Protein Increases Hunger and Desire to Eat in Younger and Older Men." Journal of Nutrition, 2007;137(6):1478-82. Johnston, CS, Tionn SL, Swan PD. "High-protein, low-fat diets are effective for weight loss and favorably alter biomarkers in healthy adults." Journal of Nutrition. 2004; 134: 586-591.