Plasma elemental responses to red meat ingestion in healthy young males and the effect of cooking method

  • Matthew P. G. Barnett
  • Vic S. C. Chiang
  • Amber M. Milan
  • Shikha Pundir
  • Trevor A. Walmsley
  • Susan Grant
  • James F. Markworth
  • Siew-Young Quek
  • Peter M. George
  • David Cameron-Smith
Original Contribution



Elemental deficiencies are highly prevalent and have a significant impact on health. However, clinical monitoring of plasma elemental responses to foods remains largely unexplored. Data from in vitro studies show that red meat (beef) is a highly bioavailable source of several key elements, but cooking method may influence this bioavailability. We therefore studied the postprandial responses to beef steak, and the effects of two different cooking methods, in healthy young males.


In a randomized cross-over controlled trial, healthy males (n = 12, 18–25 years) were fed a breakfast of beef steak (270 ± 20 g) in which the meat was either pan-fried (PF) or sous-vide (SV) cooked. Baseline and postprandial blood samples were collected and the plasma concentrations of 15 elements measured by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).


Concentrations of Fe and Zn changed after meal ingestion, with plasma Fe increasing (p < 0.001) and plasma Zn decreasing (p < 0.05) in response to both cooking methods. The only potential treatment effect was seen for Zn, where the postprandial area under the curve was lower in response to the SV meal (2965 ± 357) compared to the PF meal (3190 ± 310; p < 0.05).


This multi-element approach demonstrated postprandial responsiveness to a steak meal, and an effect of the cooking method used. This suggests the method would provide insight in future elemental metabolic studies to evaluate responses to meat-based meals, including longer-term interventions in more specifically defined cohorts to clearly establish the role of red meat as an important source of elements.


Iron Zinc Biological availability Mass spectrometry 



The authors thank Drs Scott Knowles and Emma Bermingham (AgResearch Limited) for their critical evaluation of the manuscript.

Author contributions

MPGB assisted with analysis and interpretation of data, and drafted the manuscript. VSCC carried out ICP-MS analysis (with assistance from TAW and SJG) and helped draft the manuscript. AMM and SP were involved in the coordination, management and implementation of the clinical trial. AMM completed statistical analysis of the data. JFM provided laboratory supervision and assisted with the data analysis. SYQ was involved in the study design and supervision of the intervention. PMG provided oversight and management of the ICP-MS data generation. DCS formulated the research question, and initiated and supervised all aspects of the study. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


This study was supported by an Establishment Grant from the Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland (JFM and DCS) and through AgResearch Strategic Science Investment Fund contract A19079 (Nutritional Strategies for an Ageing Population).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew P. G. Barnett
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Vic S. C. Chiang
    • 5
  • Amber M. Milan
    • 5
  • Shikha Pundir
    • 5
  • Trevor A. Walmsley
    • 6
  • Susan Grant
    • 6
  • James F. Markworth
    • 5
  • Siew-Young Quek
    • 7
  • Peter M. George
    • 6
  • David Cameron-Smith
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Food Nutrition and Health Team, Food and Bio-based Products GroupAgResearch Limited, Grasslands Research CentrePalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.Food and Bio-based Products Group, AgResearch Limited, Grasslands Research CentrePalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.The High-Value Nutrition National Science ChallengeAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Riddet InstitutePalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  5. 5.The Liggins InstituteThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  6. 6.Canterbury Health LaboratoriesChristchurchNew Zealand
  7. 7.Department of Food Sciences, School of Chemical SciencesThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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