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Title: Prospective controlled research on red meat, haem iron, and blood pressure

item Hunt, Janet

Submitted to: British Medical Journal
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/5/2008
Publication Date: 8/6/2008
Citation: Hunt, J.R. 2008. Prospective controlled research on red meat, haem iron, and blood pressure. [Letter to Editor]. British Medical Journal. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The recent report of Tzoulaki and colleagues (Reference 1) on a large cross-sectional epidemiological international collaborative study on macro-/micronutrients and blood pressure (INTERMAP) indicated that blood pressure was negatively associated with non-haem iron ingestion and positively associated with red meat intake. Both this paper and the accompanying editorial noted the need for confirmation of such findings with prospective controlled studies. I am writing to draw attention to a relevant small, but well-controlled prospective study from our laboratory. We reported no change in the systolic or diastolic resting blood pressure of 21 healthy premenopausal women who consumed weighed experimental lacto-ovo-vegetarian and meat-containing diets (with equivalent food energy) for 8 wk each in a randomized cross-over design (Reference 2). These two diets contained 0 and 184 g meat/d, respectively. Three-quarters of this meat was beef, with chicken as the remainder. As described in a subsequent paper emphasizing iron content and absorption/bioavailability (Reference 3), the two diets contained 12.6 and 13.6 mg total iron, and 0 and 1.2 mg haem iron/d, respectively. Compared to the meat-containing diet, the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet resulted in substantially lower non-haem and total iron absorption (Reference 3). This small study with controlled diets for 8 wk each does not support a positive association of red meat or haem iron intake with blood pressure, under conditions of equivalent energy consumption.