Cholesterol Increases the Same Regardless of the Type of Meat

The standing debate between red and white meat has been, for quite some time, in favor of white meat.  Indeed, it has long been thought that white meat—essentially, poultry—is better for you than red meat (essentially, beef).  A new study, however, argues that pretty much all forms of meat have the potential to increase cholesterol when compared against plant-based proteins. 

Specifically, the studied compared red meat, white poultry, and plant-based proteins to argue that both types of animal proteins increase the risk because they are significantly higher in saturated fat than plant proteins.  And it is saturated fat that should concern us in regards to cholesterol and heart health. 

This is important, of course, because it is quite well-known that saturated fats (which are characteristically native to animal proteins and include things like butter, beef fat, and poultry skin) increase the concentration of LDL cholesterol in your blood. This is the waxy “bad” cholesterol that can build up in your arteries over time and can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. 

While all of this information has been understand for a long time, the idea that red meat is significantly higher in in saturated fat than white meat has never been tested.  As such, the researchers assembled more than 100 healthy men and women between the ages of 21 and 65. Each person was randomly assigned either a high saturated fat diet or a low saturated fat diet. 

Study participants abstained from alcohol for the duration of the study, which cycled them through three test diets:  red meat, white meat, and no meat.  The main source of red meat was beef and the main source of white meat was chicken.  Each person provided blood samples at the conclusion of each test cycle.  As expected, plant proteins proved the healthiest, but the surprise came when it was found that the red and white meat diets resulted in identical cholesterol levels when the saturated fat level intake was equivalent. 

With all that in mind, there is still some evidence that white meat may be better for your heart than red meat, overall.  This aspect of the discussion takes into consideration that other factors likely contribute to cardiovascular disease, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

This study has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.