white meat is as bad as red meat for cholesterol and cardiovascular disease

For lowering cholesterol and protecting from cardiovascular disease, the conventional wisdom in some circles has been to reduce your intake of red meat. But the scientific wisdom is to reduce your intake of all meat, red and white.

The conventional advice to people with elevated cholesterol has been to limit red meat, since it raises the heart hazardous LDL cholesterol and causes cardiovascular disease. For many people, that has left white meat as the default dinner choice. But that default choice is not based on evidence: there has not been a lot of studies of the effect of white meat on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

So, American researchers put the different meats to the test in a study funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institutes of Health. They kept track of cholesterol levels and compared what happened when you ate a diet with red meat, white meat or protein from nonmeat sources.

The 113 people in the study were healthy and were between 21 and 65 years old. They followed each of the diets for four weeks.

LDL cholesterol were significantly higher on the red and white meat diets than on the nonmeat diet. That may not be surprising. But what was really surprising was that there was no significant difference between the red meat and the white meat: white meat raised cholesterol identically to red meat.

The study concludes that, for cholesterol and heart health, we should be following a diet “with a high proportion of plant-based food” and that there is no scientific evidence for choosing white meat over red meat.

The researchers say that this study is the first “comprehensive comparison of the effects of red meat, white meat and nonmeat proteins on blood cholesterol.” Actually, a study published just two months earlier in the journal Circulation found that while replacing red meat with plant proteins is beneficial for cardiovascular disease, replacing it with poultry or fish is not.

So, for cholesterol problems and heart health, the science says you should replace all meat--red, white and fish—with vegetarian food.

Am J Clin Nutr 2019;doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz035

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For lots more on healthy, delicious vegetarian eating for cholesterol and heart health, see Linda's book, The All-New Vegetarian Passport: a comprehensive health book and cookbook all in one.

 The Natural Path is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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