For decades, white meat was thought to have less cholesterol and was better for preventing cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study is showing that cholesterol levels for both white meat and red meat are equal. The study has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco reviewed the data of more than 100 healthy male and female participants aged 21 to 65 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each participant was assigned to either a high-saturated or low-saturated fat group, with the high-saturated fat provided primarily by butter and full-fat foods. The main source of red meat was beef, while the main white meat protein was chicken.
Each diet lasted four weeks with a “washout period” where participants ate their usual foods for a period. All participants abstained from alcohol for the duration of the study. The researchers collected blood samples from all the participants at the beginning and end of each test diet.
The study concluded that people who eat meat, regardless of type, as their major protein had higher levels of LDL cholesterol when compared with people who get their protein elsewhere, like from vegetables. The red meat’s effects on cholesterol were very similar to the white meat products. The participants who got their proteins mainly from plants had the healthiest cholesterol levels.
The size of cholesterol particles in the blood samples was also examined. The study showed no significant differences in concentrations of large, medium, and small LDL particles in the blood of participants between the red meat and white meat diets. However, they did find a higher concentration of large LDL particles in the high saturated fat diet.
Saturated fats, which derive mainly from animal sources, have long been associated with cardiovascular disease risk. The cholesterol from the saturated fats can accumulate in the arteries, increasing the person’s risk of a stroke or heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends that people get just 5 to 6 percent of their calories from saturated fats.