Regular consumption of horsemeat can lower cholesterol and boost blood iron levels, a new study has claimed, amid a row around the globe over contamination of meat products.
Researchers from the University of Milan found that horsemeat is very high in iron, with one 150g portion providing up to a half of the daily recommended intake, and very low in saturated fats, which are associated with high cholesterol.
Horse has some of the health-boosting qualities that have been associated with fish, and it has up to 40 per cent fewer calories and more protein than other meats, scientists said.
In the study, men aged 20 to 50 ate two 175g portions of horsemeat a week for three months. A second group ate other meat, but avoided horse.
Blood samples were taken from all the men for testing at the start of the trial and after 45 and 90 days. Results showed that horsemeat consumption significantly reduced levels of total and bad cholesterol, The Independent reported.
The former dropped by 6 per cent, and bad cholesterol by 9.1 per cent.
"Horsemeat is an important source of omega 3 and iron and, compared to other meats, is very low in saturated fatty acids but rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like fish and other seafood," said the researchers.
"Regular consumption of horsemeat may improve cholesterol and iron status in healthy people," they said.
Italy is Europe's biggest consumer of horsemeat, with more than 300 registered butchers, and its use has been traced back to the 19th century when, it is claimed, horse flesh was prescribed by doctors for people with iron-deficient anaemia.
The horsemeat scandal came to light this year when it was reported that horse DNA had been discovered in frozen beefburgers sold in several Irish and British supermarkets.
Mislabelled food products containing horsemeat have been discovered in more than 16 European countries. Austria and Norway have confirmed that they found ready-to-eat beef meals containing horsemeat after falsely-labelled meat was found in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.