New study confirms: meat is necessary during pregnancy

A new study confirms that insufficient consumption of beef (pork, poultry and fish as well) during pregnancy can have negative neurological consequences on the unborn child.

Proper nutrition during pregnancy is very important for the health of the foetus and the newborn. This is why regular consumption of all foods, especially fruit, vegetables and meat, is vital for an adequate supply of essential nutrients in this critical phase. A new study (“Relationship Between Maternal Meat Consumption During Pregnancy and Umbilical Cord Ferritin Concentration“) confirms the indispensable role of beef in the diet for the supply of heme iron, whose deficiency in this delicate moment can cause long-term adverse neurological effects.

The iron requirement in pregnancy is very high, estimated at 27 mg/day, a level not easily reachable, especially if there is lack of information or wrong eating habits in families: according to the World Health Organization, 30% of women of childbearing age and 50% of pregnant women suffer from anaemia, and this is also due to the fact that the reliable sources of heme iron are only beef, pork, poultry and fish.

Insufficient #meat consumption during #pregnancy can have negative #neurological consequences on the #birth. A new study confirms it. Click To Tweet

In fact, the non-heme iron found in plants is not efficiently absorbed by our body. On the contrary, the heme iron of red meat boasts a high percentage of absorption that has no equal, and the simultaneous presence of meat in the meal helps to even increase the absorption of iron from vegetables.

In this regard, the study measured the ferritin level in the blood of the umbilical cord to evaluate the iron deposits reached during the foetal phase. Ferritin is a protein that the body produces in order to store iron for later use: its levels in the foetus are important because associated with long-term effects on the child’s development, and influenced directly by the type of diet followed by the mother during pregnancy. The frequency and quantity of consumption of foods containing iron during the last trimester of pregnancy were therefore investigated, which is a critical time for the formation of iron deposits, with particular focus on beef, the main source of heme iron.

The (really) reliable sources of #HemeIron are only #beef, #pork, #poultry and #fish. Click To Tweet

Results showed that the risk of latent iron deficiency (LID) (with ferritin values in the umbilical cord below 100 ng/ml) in the unborn child is three times higher if the pregnant mother consumes less than 100 g / day of beef. Therefore, insufficient intake of beef in the diet carries a greater risk of long-term negative effects on the myelination of nerve cells and on the neurocognitive development of the unborn child.

Basically, when the maternal iron intake is insufficient, the foetus primarily uses iron for the synthesis of haemoglobin for its survival, leaving out the development of the central nervous system. Thus, all the neuronal processes, the synthesis of neurotransmitters, myelinated fibres and glial cells are dramatically compromised, with permanent damage to the child’s neurocognitive development. This study is the first one that evaluates the level of meat consumption during pregnancy and its relationship with the amount of iron in the foetus, confirming what has already emerged in the past regarding the risks of a meatless diet in pregnant women and in the child, so a complete diet is a must.

I nsufficient intake of #RedMeat during #pregnancy carries a greater risk of long-term negative effects on #myelination of #NervousCells and on the #NeurocognitiveDevelopment of the #UnbornChild. Click To Tweet

Reducing red meat intake can also negatively impact the intake of vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and vitamin D: in a recent study directed in the UK, women who consumed less than 40 g of red meat a day showed a deficiency of zinc and vitamin D. The invitation of the authors, and ours too, is to well evaluate all the risks before giving too superficial advice to the population in limiting the consumption of meat.

Agronomist, nutritional consultant and scientific writer, author and co-author of 11 scientific publications and numerous articles on human nutrition and its impact on health and environment. In 2010 she received the title of Doctor Europaeus and PhD in Animal Production, Health and Food Hygiene in countries with a Mediterranean climate.