Pork CRC Looks to Make Pork Even Healthier

Pork may be a way to boost the intake of thiamine, selenium and iron in humans, according to research published in the Annual Report 08-09 from Australia's Pork CRC.
calendar icon 30 October 2009
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As part of Pork CRC Program 3, Enhancing capacity to deliver nutrients promoting health and well-being through pork, two projects were completed during the reporting period and summaries were published in the annual report.

Benefits of Pork for People with Type 2 Diabetes

The role of Australian pork in improving the thiamine status, heart disease risk factors and glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes was the topic of study of Project 3A-101.

The rising prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has increased interest in the use of higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets for weight and diabetes management. The Pork CRC study showed that a higher intake of lean pork as part of a high protein plan lifestyle programme, when combined with resistance exercise training, may provide advantages for weight loss and improvements in body composition in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

Participants on the high protein and resistance exercise treatment had the greater reduction in body weight, fat mass and waist circumference than those on a high carbohydrate, high protein or high carbohydrate and resistance exercise treatments.

The results of this study suggest that a lifestyle programme that includes pork may offer additional nutritional advantages for promoting thiamine status over a high carbohydrate diet and that lean pork is a valuable alternative source of protein for weight management for patients with type 2 diabetes.

The results (Figure 1) also showed that the diet including pork which is considerably higher in thiamine than other meats, overcame the weight loss related decline in thiamine status exhibited by participants on the carbohydrate diet (P<0.05). Type 2 diabetics tend have lower blood thiamine levels and it is thought this is linked to markers of vascular disease.

Figure 1. Effects of diets based on carbohydrates or lean pork on the whole blood thiamine pyrophosphate (nmol/litre) of type 2 diabetics following a 16-week diet and exercise intervention programme

Increasing Selenium and Iron Intake through Pork

Project 3A-102 from Pork CRC investigated nutritional strategies to increase the selenium and iron content in pork and promote human health

This project demonstrated that dietary selenium supplementation to pigs increased the Se content in pork muscle in a linear manner compared with pigs fed either the control or non-selenium enriched diets. Although organic iron supplementation did not increase the iron content of pork in this study, differences between gilts and boars were found. This is being further explored, together with inulin supplementation, in project 3A-108 and was due for completion in August 2009. Importantly, neither selenium nor iron supplementation were found to affect growth performance of pigs, carcass characteristics or meat quality.

When included in diets fed to rats, the bioavailability and efficacy of selenium was greater in rats fed selenium-enriched pork than those fed control or normal pork diets. This was demonstrated by a reduction in the number of putative pre-neoplastic lesions in colon tissues of rats induced with azoxymethane fed the selenium-enriched pork diet compared with those fed the control and non-selenium enriched pork diets (Figure 2). The protective effect of selenium-enriched pork against pre-neoplastic lesions in colon tissues might have been due to a significant increase in blood and tissue selenium concentrations, providing greater protection against oxidative DNA damage.

Figure 2. Aberrant crypt foci (ACF) development in Sprague Dawley rats induced with azoxymethane compound

The three ongoing projects addressing the potential health benefits offered by the high protein: energy ratio of pork and its low fat content on cardio-metabolic health and weight loss (Projects 3A 104), the effects of high protein content of pork on satiety and reduced energy consumption (Project 3A 105) and the role of iron from pork on the health and well being of young women (Project 3A106) will be completed in 2009–10.

All projects are co-funded by the Pork CRC and Australian Pork Ltd (APL) and the outcomes will be 'commercialised' in conjunction with APL's marketing team.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

October 2009
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