By: Claire AitkenThe health benefits and harms of oyster consumption have long been hotly debated, with many claiming the meat is a healthier option than fish or even vegetables.
However, a new study from the University of Queensland has found that oysters can be a good source of iron, and can even boost the levels of the iron needed to prevent heart disease.
Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology found that the calcium in oysters actually has a beneficial effect on the body.
“A high concentration of calcium in the shell of oysters has been linked to the health benefit of calcium, which is important in maintaining healthy bones, bones and muscles,” Dr Chris Mair, from the university’s School of Medicine, said.
“For people who eat a lot of oystery, there’s an added benefit of a calcium content of about 1.6 percent, which could be a very important factor in protecting against cardiovascular disease.”
Iron is also a good mineral, and many people are concerned that consuming more iron-rich foods could be linked to osteoporosis.
“People are eating oysters for the same reason that people are eating fish, which are both high in iron, so it’s probably a little bit of both,” Dr Mair said.
He said the new research would be presented at the International Congress on Food Quality in Sydney on Saturday, July 24.
Iron supplementation could be an effective alternative to fish and other high-calcium foods for people who are concerned about their bones or joints.
“The iron in the oysters is not absorbed directly into the bones, so there’s no iron absorption in the body, but it’s absorbed into the bloodstream,” Dr Darrin Hinchcliffe, from St Andrews University’s School for Public Health and the Environment, said, adding that a diet rich in fish was not likely to increase the risk of osteoporsis.
Professor Mair and his team found that men who ate the most oysters in the Mediterranean region and Europe had significantly lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the type of cholesterol that causes artery disease.
The team also found that people who ate more than two oysters a week had higher levels of iron in their blood.
“If you eat a whole meal of oytas, you get enough of this iron in your body, so you get more iron in blood than if you ate just a single oyster,” Dr Hinchlock said.
However, if you only ate one or two oyster a day, the iron could still be taken up by the liver and be passed on to the rest of the body through the diet.
“It doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on the risk for cardiovascular disease,” Dr Fergal Macdonald, from Queensland’s National Health and Medical Research Council, said of the study.
People who were more likely to have been in good health before starting the study had lower levels in their iron levels.
“We think that people eating a lot more oysters might be at greater risk of getting heart disease,” Professor Macdonald said.
However, he said there was still a need for more research to confirm the results of the trial.
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