Lamb 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effects

Lamb and heart disease

Heart disease is a major cause of premature death.

It’s a group of adverse conditions involving the heart and blood vessels, including heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Observational studies have revealed mixed results on the link between red meat and heart disease.

Some studies find an increased risk from eating high amounts of both processed and unprocessed meat, whereas others note an increased risk for processed meat only — or no effect at all.

No hard evidence supports this link. Observational studies only reveal an association but cannot prove a direct causal relationship.

Several theories have been proposed to explain the association of high meat intake with heart disease.

For example, a high intake of meat may mean less intake of other beneficial foods, such as heart-healthy fish, fruit, and vegetables.

It is also linked to unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as lack of physical activity, smoking, and overeating.

Most observational studies try to correct for these factors.

The most popular theory is the diet-heart hypothesis. Many people believe that meat causes heart disease because it contains high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat — impairing the blood lipid profile.

However, most scientists now agree that dietary cholesterol is not a risk factor for heart disease.

Also, the role of saturated fats in developing heart disease is not entirely clear. Many studies have not been able to link saturated fat with an increased risk of heart disease.

In itself, meat doesn’t have adverse effects on your blood lipid profile. Lean lamb has been shown to have similar effects as fish or white meat, such as chicken.

Still, you should avoid eating high amounts of cured lamb or meat cooked at high heat.

SUMMARY

It’s debated whether eating lamb increases your risk of heart disease. Eating mildly cooked, lean lamb in moderation is probably safe and healthy.

Lamb and cancer

Cancer is a disease characterized by abnormal cell growth. It’s one of the world’s leading causes of death.

A number of observational studies show that people who eat a lot of red meat are at an increased risk of colon cancer over time.

Yet, not all studies support this.

Several substances in red meat may increase cancer risk, including heterocyclic amines.

Heterocyclic amines are a class of cancer-causing substances formed when meat is exposed to very high temperatures, such as during frying, baking, or grilling.

They’re found in relatively high amounts in well done and overcooked meat.

Studies consistently indicate that eating overcooked meat — or other dietary sources of heterocyclic amines — may increase the risk of various cancers, including of the colon, breast, and prostate .

Though there is no clear-cut proof that meat intake causes cancer, it seems sensible to avoid eating high amounts of overcooked meat.

Moderate intake of mildly cooked meat is likely safe and healthy — especially when it’s steamed or boiled.

SUMMARY

Eating a lot of red meat has been linked to increased cancer risk. This may be due to contaminants in meat — particularly those that form when meat is overcooked.

The bottom line

Lamb is a type of red meat that comes from young sheep.

Not only is it a rich source of high-quality protein, but it is also an outstanding source of many vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Because of this, regular consumption of lamb may promote muscle growth, maintenance, and performance. In addition, it helps prevent anemia.

On the negative side, some observational studies have linked a high intake of red meat to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Because of contaminants, high consumption of processed and/or overcooked meat is a cause for concern.

That said, moderate consumption of lean lamb that has been mildly cooked is likely both safe and healthy.