Health messages to reduce red meat intakes could prevent women absorbing vital minerals and vitamins, particularly intakes of zinc and vitamin D.
Analysis of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data has revealed that women eating less than 40g of red meat a day were more likely to have micronutrient intakes below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) for zinc, iron, vitamin B12 and potassium.
They were also found to have lower habitual vitamin D intakes than women consuming between 40g and 69g daily.
Intakes below the LRNI are almost certainly not enough for most people, experts said.
Dr Emma Derbyshire, an independent Public Health nutritionist and study author said: “Encouraging all population groups to eat less red meat can clearly exacerbate the nutrient shortfalls that are apparent in some at-risk groups.
“This study shows a clear correlation between low consumption of red meat and lower intakes of key nutrients that are essential for good health.
“Red meat is a nutrient dense food and is the most readily absorbed source of iron in our diet.
“Average intakes are well within the recommendation of up to 70g per day and the ongoing problem of iron and zinc insufficiency in women suggest that some groups should actually be eating more red meat, not less.”
Data from 2,021 women aged 11 to 64 years from years 2008/2009 to 2011/2012 was analysed by experts.
Among the participants the average intake of red and processed meat from NDNS years 5 and 6 of the survey were 47g per day for women aged 19 to 64 years, with 43 per cent of UK women eating less than 40g.
These intakes are substantially lower than recommended levels which was up to 70g of red meat per day.
Overall mean daily iron and zinc intakes were below the LRNI in 30.5 and 9.8 percent of participants, respectively.
A further 14.7 per cent and a quarter – 25.1 per cent had riboflavin and potassium intakes below the LRNI, respectively.
Nearly half of the participants – 48.5 per cent – had selenium intakes below the LRNI.
The result showed average vitamin D intake was 1.98mg per day.
When comparing data between UK females with total red meat intakes less than 40g daily and those eating between 40g and 69g daily, the micronutrient intakes were continually lower in females who consumed less than 40g.
The proportion of individuals with micronutrients below the LRNI was significantly higher for iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and potassium among those consuming less than 40g total red meat a fay compared to those eating between 40g and 69g.
Women are at a particularly high risk of iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anaemia (IDA).
Iron is also critical to reproductive health, with IDA having wide-ranging detrimental effects on material and infant well-being.
Some research has also linked ID in females of childbearing age to reduced cognition, mental health and heightened fatigue.
Zinc is an important part of many enzymes and is required to aid growth of the immune cells plus maintenance of hair, skin and nails.
Zinc is also an important nutrients for women of reproductive age who could become pregnant, with other research showing that pregnant vegetarians tend to have zinc intakes below recommended amounts.
The study was published in the journal Nutrients.