Red meat's link to kidney failure risk

A consumer browsing the red meat section at a supermarket in Japan.
A consumer browsing the red meat section at a supermarket in Japan.PHOTO: ST FILE

Replacing it with other types of protein like fish and poultry may reduce risk, says study

Replacing red meat in one's diet with other types of food containing protein, such as poultry and fish, is linked to a reduction in risk of developing kidney failure, a study conducted by researchers in Singapore has found.

A reduction of up to 62 per cent in the risk of developing end-stage renal disease - which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant - was associated with one serving of red meat being substituted with other sources of protein, going by the study's findings released yesterday.

Almost all of the red meat consumed by study participants was pork. The research was led by Professor Koh Woon Puay from the Duke-NUS Medical School and NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

The study was conducted over a period of 15 years and based on more than 60,000 Chinese adults in Singapore. Participants were between 45 and 74 years old at the start of the study. No association was found between kidney failure and the consumption of poultry, fish, eggs or dairy products, while eating soya and other legumes may reduce the risk of kidney failure, the study found.

The findings are consistent with those of other studies based on Western-style diets, which consist of more red and processed meat.

EAT IN MODERATION

It is best to eat red meat in moderation. For example, instead of eating red meat for every meal or daily, it is advisable to replace it with other meat such as poultry and fish, or plant-based protein such as soya and legumes for alternate meals or days.

PROFESSOR KOH WOON PUAY, who headed the study.

However, it is not necessary to stop eating red meat completely, said Prof Koh.

She said: "It is best to eat red meat in moderation. For example, instead of eating red meat for every meal or daily, it is advisable to replace it with other meat such as poultry and fish, or plant-based protein such as soya and legumes for alternate meals or days."

Professors from the department of renal medicine at Singapore General Hospital concurred.

Professor Chan Choong Meng, a senior consultant, and Professor Woo Keng Thye, an emeritus consultant, both noted that people need a certain level of protein in their serum to have a robust immune system to combat infection.

Individuals, they said, should ensure that they have adequate protein substitutes such as eggs and milk if they choose not to eat meat, fish or other seafood.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Red meat's link to kidney failure risk'. Print Edition | Subscribe