Many of us avoid red meat to maintain our low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol level. LDL is can increase your risk of heart disease risk. However, a newly published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that red and white meat have similar effects on LDL. Before you give up and order steak and cheeseburgers at every meal, let’s take a look at the facts.
Details of the study
Led by scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, the study examined whether cholesterol levels differed after consuming diets high in red meat compared with diets with similar protein levels from white meat or non-meat sources. Non-meat sources high in protein include foods such as nuts, legumes, grains, and soy products. The researchers also examined to see if the saturated fat in each diet affected each participant.
The study’s participants were one hundred and thirteen healthy men and women, ranging from ages 21 to 65. The group participated for four weeks by consuming either a randomly assigned high or low saturated fat diet. They also consumed either red meat, white meat, or non-meat food sources.
To reduce the chances that other factors would affect cholesterol levels, participants maintained their typical activity level and abstained from alcohol. They also worked to maintain their weight during the study period and adjusted their calorie intake if their weight changed.
Red meat, white meat, or non-meat?
After consuming both the red and white meat diets, LDL cholesterol was significantly higher compared with the non-meat diet, regardless of whether the diet was high or low in saturated fat. The high-saturated fat diets had a larger harmful effect on LDL cholesterol levels than the low-saturated fat diets, however. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol was unaffected by the protein source.
Conclusion of the study
Further research will surely ensue as the study had a number of limitations. The number of participants and the duration of the study was small. The study also excluded processed meats such as cold cuts, sausage, or bacon.
It is always best to consult with your physician about what diet is best for you. If you need a physician, please refer to our provider directory. When seeking protein sources yet maintaining a healthy LDL, there are a number of vegetables and legumes such as peas, beans, lentils, nuts and chickpeas to consider. Meat, as with all things, should be consumed in moderation.
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