Meat and poultry products are important sources of micronutrients and eating meat and poultry can prevent well-documented vitamin deficiencies, according to American Meat Institute comments submitted this week to the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee.
"In addition to high quality protein, meat and poultry also are important and rich sources of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, and Vitamins B12, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and potassium," AMI wrote in its comments. "Up to 16% of U.S. adults and more than 20% over 60 years old are marginally depleted in vitamin B12."
AMI also noted that deficiency increases with age, with about 6% of those more than 70 years old being deficient in vitamin B12.
"Recent research also has demonstrated the role that meat and poultry can play in ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral intake. These nutrients are either not present in plant foods or have low bioavailability," AMI said.
The comments were submitted just as a new protein study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Aging and completed by the University of Southern California appeared on Wednesday.
The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism claims a diet high in protein during middle age makes individuals four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet.
It also claims that middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources, like meat, milk and cheese, are also more susceptible to early death in general.
But in its comments, which were filed prior to the study release, AMI stressed the importance of protein in meat and poultry, calling it "critical for developing, maintaining, and repairing strong muscles and it is vital for reducing the muscle loss that often occurs with aging."
Also requested by the committee to provide comments on sodium intake and sustainability, AMI responded that sodium is essential for human health and development, particularly in regulating the body's electrolyte balance, preventing dehydration, and maintaining many of the body's cellular functions.
Salt also plays a role in the production of meat products – whether used by large commercial processors, local butchers, or even within the consumer's home – to improve the flavor, texture, and safety of those products.
"As an ingredient in meat products, salt is used as a preservative, which is one aspect of a multi-hurdle approach toward maintaining product safety," AMI said. "In the last 20 years, the meat and poultry industry has also learned in more quantitative fashion the importance of sodium chloride in managing pathogenic bacterial risks..."
Finally, AMI told the committee that sustainability is outside the scope of the committee's charge and that there is insufficient expertise on the committee and insufficient data in the published literature to make science-based decisions in this area.
"The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is comprised of experts in nutrition and epidemiology. To address the variety of issues attendant to sustainability is outside the Committee's expertise and could dilute the importance of the Committee's recommendations," AMI wrote.
"Sustainability is a complex issue that is being addressed by various experts in a number of other forums. Until those expert panels have drawn more concrete conclusions it would be premature for the Committee to incorporate such considerations into its dietary guidance recommendations."