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The Role of Lean Beef in Healthful Dietary Patterns: Myths Versus Reality

McNeill, Shalene PhD, RD; Lofgren, Phil PhD; Elswyk, Mary Van PhD, RD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e31823db387
Food and Nutrition

In recent years, the association between dietary patterns and health has emerged as an important central concept in developing dietary recommendations, including the development of the US Dietary Guidelines. The Western dietary pattern is most commonly defined as a diet characterized by high intakes of refined grains, sugar, red meat and other animal products, and fat and has frequently been associated with negative health outcomes such as an increased risk of colon cancer, heart attack, and diabetes. Because a Western dietary pattern has been associated with adverse health outcomes in some studies, it is assumed that all dietary components are equally culpable, but this may not necessarily be the case. Disentangling the independent effects of individual foods, such as red meat (including lean beef), on health outcomes is a substantial challenge. This article reviews the myths and realities regarding the role of lean beef in various healthful dietary patterns.

Where does beef fit into the diet?

Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, is the executive director of Nutrition Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where she directs the national human nutrition research program for the Beef Checkoff.

Phil Lofgren, PhD, with Lofgren & Associates, is a freelance writer and nutrition research consultant providing research services and technical writing on nutrition and health issues.

Mary Van Elswyk, PhD, RD, is a principal scientist with Van Elswyk Consulting, Inc, where she specializes in regulatory and scientific aspects of nutrition and health claim development and approval.

The Beef Checkoff through National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) provided funding and material support for the preparation of this article.

Dr McNeill is currently employed by the NCBA as the executive director of Human Nutrition Research. Dr Van Elswyk has been paid by the Beef Checkoff through the NCBA to provide consulting services related to this and other articles. Service for this manuscript included drafting and editing. Dr Van Elswyk has acted as a consultant for NCBA from November 2008 to the present. Dr Lofgren has been paid by the Beef Checkoff through the NCBA to provide critical review and editing for this article. Dr Lofgren has regularly consulted with various meat industry groups since 1992.

Correspondence: Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, 9110 E Nichols Ave, Centennial, CO 80112 (

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins