Chicken as harmful as red meat in terms of high cholesterol, says new study

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Reversing the widely believed fact that consuming red meat is more harmful compared to white meat like poultry, a new study has come out with a surprising finding that chicken is as harmful as red meat in contributing to blood cholesterol levels.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), the research arm of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland. showed that consumption of high amount of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming merely plant proteins or vegetables.

Since both red and white meat increased amounts of large LDL in comparison to non-meat diets, using standard LDL cholesterol levels as the measure of cardiovascular risk may lead to overestimating that risk for both higher meat and saturated fat intakes, as standard LDL cholesterol tests may primarily reflect levels of larger LDL particles, said the study.

chicken harmful
When saturated fat levels are equivalent, the effects of red and white meat on cholesterol are identical, a new study finds /UCSF UCSF

"When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat. But we were surprised that this was not the case... their effects on cholesterol levels are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent," said lead author Ronald Krauss from the University of California.

Over the last few decades, consumption of red meat has become unpopular due to its association with increased heart diseases and many government dietary guidelines have encouraged chicken instead of red meat as a healthier alternative.

Since there was no study on comprehensive comparison of the effects of red meat and white meat on blood cholesterol levels, the new study of Krauss gains more importance as it vouches for non-meat proteins like vegetables, dairy, and legumes such as beans, for the best cholesterol benefit.

"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," said Krauss.

The new study has indicated that restricting consumption of meat altogether, whether red or white, is more advisable for lowering blood cholesterol levels, though the study did not include grass-fed beef or fish.

The research has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This article was first published on July 3, 2019