The cholesterol-lowering benefits of eating horse meat have been revealed by Italian researchers.
The finding by scientists at the University of Milan was released as the fallout continues from Europe’s horse-meat contamination scandal. Millions of processed beef products have been withdrawn across the European Union after it was found they were contaminated by horse meat.
It also comes as American authorities move toward approving meat inspection services to abattoirs processing horses, which will reopen the door the US equine slaughter industry. The move is opposed by equine advocates for humane reasons and because of the risk of dangerous drug residues entering the food chain.
Researchers Cristian Del Bo’, Daniele Contino, Patrizia Riso, Paolo Simonetti and Salvatore Ciappellano, from the university’s Department of Food Science and Technology Microbiology and Nutrition, set about investigating the effects of horse-meat consumption on iron status, cholesterol levels and the fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes in healthy individuals.
Fifty-two healthy male volunteers of good weight were enrolled, half of whom consumed two 175-gram portions of horse meat a week. The other subjects ate other meats.
Blood samples were collected at the start of the trial, and again after 45 and 90 days.
No evident effect on triglyceride, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels was shown after 90 days in the horse-meat eaters when compared to the control group. However, the percentage variations were significantly different between test and control groups for total cholesterol, they found.
A significant variation were also observed for the content of omega-3 fatty acid.
The researchers noted that horse meat was very low in fat and cholesterol and was a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Compared to pork and beef, it had more iron and less fat
Horse meat was an important source of omega 3 and iron, they noted.
“With respect to other meats, it is very low in saturated fatty acids but rich in polyunsatured fatty acids like fish and other seafood.
“A regular consumption of horse meat seems to improve omega 3, docosahexaneoic acid, iron status and to reduce total cholesterol.
“Therefore, a regular consumption of horse meat with respect to other read meats, may improve fatty acid profile and in particular modulate polyunsatured fatty acids, the most useful fatty acids to maintain nutritional status and the protective effects.”
Italy is the biggest consumer of horse meat among all European countries.