Science for Brazil (Reino Unido)

Revealed: The ‘Healthy Steak’

Publicado em 19 fevereiro 2014

The “guilt-free steak” could soon be on your table, permitting dedicated carnivores to keep on indulging without driving up their cholesterol levels.

New research from Latin America’s largest beef-producing country is proving that meat known to be high in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, can be transformed into a healthier food simply by putting additives in the diet of beef cattle.

The solution is simple: instead of humans taking antioxidant tablets to remain healthy, the supplement was given to cattle before they are slaughtered.

The key ingredient is organic Selenium, which when added to cattle feed over a three month period was found to significantly lower the cholesterol content of the blood and muscle tissue of slaughtered animals.

The research was conducted in Brazil by the School of Food Engineering (FZEA) at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Pirassununga. At this rural campus, scientists have developed low-cholesterol beef enriched with vitamin E.

Selenium is a trace element that is present at a cellular level in all animals. In fact, Selenium is widely consumed by health and wellbeing enthusiasts thanks to for its antioxidant properties in neutralising the effects of free radicals. It is a natural component of the enzymes glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase (which indirectly reduce certain oxidized molecules in animals and some plants).

In their trials, Brazilian researchers gave supplements to a group of 48 young Brazilian Nelore bulls – the Indian cross that forms the basis of the world’s largest commercial cattle herd producing over 9.5 million tonnes a year. The low-cholesterol alternative: Beef cattel fed on Selenium additive

“The cholesterol level in the blood and meat of the animals that were given high-selenium feed was reduced significantly,” said Marcus Antonio Zanetti, professor at FZEA and coordinator of the project.

According to Zanetti, the laboratory and statistical analyses of the blood and meat samples indicated that the increased quantity of selenium in the diet caused alterations in the levels of oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and reduced glutathione (GSH). These enzymes inhibit the action of the enzyme responsible for cholesterol synthesis: HMG-CoA reductase.

The mineral causes an increase in the quantity of GSSG and a decrease in GSH, causing a reduction in cholesterol owing to the action of HMG-CoA reductase, stated the researcher. In addition to Selenium, researchers also tried adding canola oil to cattle feed in order to improve the lipid profile of the meat. You can read more about the trials by clicking here.

The trials were funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state-funded body with links to the UK’s Research Councils and major universities. Results have been presented at beef industry conferences in France, Turkey and Cuba.

The development could represent a trump-card for Brazil’s beef producers: their herds are already grass-fed, producing healthier meat than that of animals confined on feedlots. If they can promise a true guilt-free steak, diners will be lining up for an extra serving of low-cholesterol Brazilian beef.

You can read a detailed article by Brazilian journalist Elton Alisson by clicking here.