Eating White Meat Is Just as Bad for Your Cholesterol as Eating Red Meat, Study Suggests
Consuming white meat has the same effect on cholesterol levels as eating red meat, according to research published this week.
Red meat has long been associated with high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease due to its high levels of saturated fat, says the American Heart Association.
But according to the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, red meat's effects on cholesterol are just the same as white meat products like chicken and turkey when compared with people who get their protein elsewhere, like from vegetables.
The study looked at more than 100 healthy men and women aged 21 to 65 in the San Francisco Bay Area between 2012 and 2016.
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Each participant was assigned to either a high-saturated or low-saturated fat group, and cycled through three test diets of red meat, white meat and nonmeat for four weeks each.
Participants who got their proteins mainly from plants had the healthiest cholesterol, according to the study, which also concluded that people who eat meat, regardless of type, as their major protein had higher levels of LDL cholesterol (known as the "bad" kind) due to meat's high levels of saturated fat.
That's not to say red and white meats offer the same health benefits and risks; according to NBC News, previous studies have revealed that red meat eaters have higher levels of a chemical called TMAO in their blood, which is linked to a higher risk of heart disease than vegetarians or people who only eat white meat.
The American Heart Association says people should get just 5 to 6 percent of their calories from saturated fats and advises people to replace foods high in saturated fat with healthier options to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Still, experts say that the study results are no reason to stop eating meat completely.
"If you have problems with cholesterol or if you have a family history of cholesterol or heart disease, then it is best to consume less of both red and white meats and instead substitute "beans, lentils, higher protein grains like quinoa, and soy-based products like tofu and tempeh," Maria Romo-Palafox, a registered dietitian and postdoctoral fellow with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, told CNN. "The take-home message is there is no need to put a label of restricted or forbidden on red meat. Make sure you are choosing the leanest meats possible."