The People's Perspective on Medicine

Is White Meat Better for Your Heart Than Red Meat?

Should you choose white meat such as chicken instead of red meat like beef or pork? To lower cholesterol, pick plant protein in a low sat fat diet.
Grilled chicken breast with green and red pepper, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, cucumber, pink pepper and fresh rosemary. Home made food. Concept for a tasty and healthy meal. Close up.

For decades, Americans have been told that red meat is bad for the heart. They’ve been encouraged to substitute white meat instead. As a result, millions treat pork chops, steaks and burgers as forbidden foods and embrace chicken and turkey instead. A new study challenges that wisdom (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 4, 2019).

Comparing Red Meat, White Meat and No Meat:

Scientists in California compared the effects of diets high or low in saturated fat among more than 100 healthy adults. Within each group, people followed a diet based on red meat, poultry or plant protein for a month at a time. Their meals were provided to reduce the chance of straying off the prescribed regimen. In between each month of controlled diets, people were allowed to eat their usual fare for two weeks. This offered a “wash-out” period, so the effects of one diet didn’t carry over to the next. 

Both red meat and white meat raised total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol more than plant protein. It didn’t matter whether people got red or white meat if they were eating a high saturated fat diet. Their lipids were elevated compared to those of those following a low saturated fat diet. 

The authors conclude that their study shows no good reason to pick white over red meat to lower heart disease risk:

“The findings are in keeping with recommendations promoting diets with a high proportion of plant-based food but, based on lipid and lipoprotein effects, do not provide evidence for choosing white over red meat for reducing CVD risk.”


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Bergeron N et al, "Effects of red meat, white meat, and nonmeat protein sources on atherogenic lipoprotein measures in the context of low compared with high saturated fat intake: A randomized controlled trial." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 4, 2019.
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I think Linda’s plan about giving up most meat except weekly grass-fed beef, and also eliminating white flour, rice and fried foods is worth a try. Although fish is supposed to contain healthy Omegas, it never agrees with me. For awhile I was eating bison, but I think it might be too high in cholesterol.

Of course, sugar is best eliminated completely although I must admit I crave it. Even tho honey, maple syrup, and molasses are also worthless, I might add a 1/2 teasp to my yogurt. But I think it’s better to forget all the sweeteners.

To begin with I thought pork was “the other white meat” and not a red one. The scientists conducting the study did not indicate whether or not other factors were considered in testing the white meat against the red meat eaters. When one just eats and does little else but be inactive, there definitely is a reason to be concerned. And this would definitely show up in a test result. Did the study prohibit any regular exercise program for these tested people? Did any of these people have a family history of elevated cholestrol? Whether or not exercise helps lower cholesterol, it is a most effective way in so many other factors to help maintain better health. I think I will stick to my white chicken meat as well as my daily walk.

There is no right answer to this question. The animal’s food determines whether it is safe to eat. Because the government regulators get the terrorist salmonella scare (by the Senators from ADM) when the subject of food quality starts scratching the surface, there is little information or protections for consumers. Your eyes can help; eggs and meat too white or chicken fat not yellow or solid at room temp would be something to never eat. Good pork and seafood also should have oils in liquid state when they come to room temp. In the MidWest, beef is about the only reliable choice in our stores – and I am concerned about what happens to these animals in the CAFO’s. We should demand better performance by regulators and producers.

I recently read an article that stated that red meat is bad for you because it contains a lot of Iron…[aka Ferritin. Taking the rationale further we find that women live longer than men maybe simply because they menstruate and shed their iron [Ferritin] monthly.

The recommendation was for men and post-menopausal women to give blood every 3-4 months to reduce the amount of iron in their systems.

I personally thought it was a very logical and interesting concept.

This is interesting, but what about fish? Some of us limit intake of non-mammals, while some people prefer not to participate in the slaughter of any animals, for moral as well as health reasons.

All I can say is that I have basically given up beef, lamb, pork, fried foods, white flour, rice, pasta. If I have red meat, it is only a small 3-4 ounce serving of grass-fed beef, once a week, or bison, or fish. Avocados, tomatoes, basically all green vegetables are unlimited, and nuts. NO SUGAR. Ezekiel bread only, no more than 2 pieces per day. Best blood work received in 20 years received 2 days ago.

And the conclusion is based on 4 weeks of study on each diet with an intervening week of eating whatever they wanted.

Valid conclusions after 4 weeks of data??????

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