When it comes to lowering cholesterol, it is wise to cut down on both white meat and red meat.
The idea that white meat, such as chicken, is healthier than red meat, such as pork, beef or lamb, is a myth.
In fact, white poultry is just as bad as red meat for blood cholesterol levels.
Eating high amounts of red meat or white meat increases the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) known as “bad” cholesterol, a new study has found.
The researchers examined 3 dietary proteins; red meat versus white meat and non-meat protein foods.
The results showed that white poultry, as well as red meat, raised blood cholesterol compared to non-meat protein sources.
Dr Ronald Krauss, the study senior author, said:
“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case — their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”
They also noticed that the increased blood cholesterol was not affected by whether the diet was high in saturated fats.
LDL contains different sized particles and high amounts of saturated fat can increase concentrations of large LDL particles.
Standard LDL cholesterol levels are used to measure the chance of cardiovascular disease, but LDL cholesterol tests mainly reflect larger LDL particle levels.
Therefore, this can lead to overestimating the effect of saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease.
In recent years, due to the link between red meat intake and increased heart disease, the consumption of poultry as a healthier option to red meat has been encouraged.
But until now there has not been any inclusive study to compare the effects of red meat, white meat and non-meat proteins on blood cholesterol, Dr Krauss said.
Non-meat proteins such as dairies, legumes and vegetables should lower bad cholesterol the most.
He also noted that the study didn’t include fish or processed meats, such as sausage or bacon.
Dr Krauss said:
“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol.
Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Bergeron et al., 2019).