Meat, dairy and eggs provide important nutrients that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), cannot always be obtained sufficiently from plant sources. This is especially important for vulnerable groups such as pregnant and lactating women, children, young people and the elderly, the FAO writes in an extensive report.
The report “Contribution of terrestrial animal source food to healthy diets for improved nutrition and health outcomes” has almost 300 pages and is based on more than 500 scientific articles and 250 policy documents. Health benefits of meat, eggs and milk according to the report: They provide high-quality protein, a number of essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12. These nutrients are not or less readily available from vegetable sources. Animal products also provide choline and bioactive compounds such as carnitine, creatine and taurine, which may play a role in immune and cognitive functions.
Disadvantages to health
The report also discusses the health drawbacks of animal consumption: even small amounts of processed red meat increase the risk of mortality and chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. However, consumption of moderate amounts of unprocessed red meat (up to about 70 grams per day) is considered safe. According to the FAO, there is also no conclusive evidence that it is unhealthy for dairy, eggs and white meat.
National dietary guidelines
As part of the diet, according to the FAO, animal products worldwide can contribute to, among other things, reducing low birth weight and growth retardation in children and anemia in women of childbearing age. That is why the FAO advises governments to include in national dietary guidelines how meat, eggs and dairy can contribute to specific nutritional needs throughout the life course of people, such as during pregnancy, lactation, childhood, adolescence and old age.