June 6, 2019
Many people who are health-conscious limit the amount of red meat they consume, preferring to have white meat, because they believe it is lower in cholesterol.
Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, beef and turkey have the same effect on cholesterol levels, when saturated fat levels are equivalent, base on findings of a study published on June 4 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, News-Medical.net reports.
The study, led by scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI)– the research arm of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland—surprised the researchers with the discovery that consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming a comparable amount of plant proteins. Moreover, this effect was observed whether or not the diet contained high levels of saturated fat, which increased blood cholesterol to the same extent with all three protein sources.
Indeed, the lead author of the study, Ronald Krauss, M.D., senior scientist and director of Atherosclerosis Research at CHORI, commented, “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.”
Krauss, who also is a UCSF professor of Medicine, noted that the meats studied did not include grass-fed beef or processed products such as bacon or sausage; nor did it include fish.
This study, dubbed the APPROACH (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health) trial, also found that consuming high amounts of saturated fat increased concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles, which have a weaker connection to cardiovascular disease than smaller LDL particles.
Similarly, red and white meat increased amounts of large LDL in comparison to nonmeat diets. Therefore, 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.
“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,” Krauss said. “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.”
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