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White is just as dangerous as red meat

Thursday June 6 2019

White meat

White meat such as chicken has an identical effect on your cholesterol level as eating red meat. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ELIZABETH MERAB
By ELIZABETH MERAB
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It turns out that the red meat or white meat debate is a draw.

Scientists now rule that even that piece of chicken you replaced your roast with will have an identical effect on your cholesterol level as eating red meat.

Exactly four years since science ‘declared’ that red and processed meat can cause cancer especially in Africa, a new research published Tuesday suggests that white meat such as poultry, have equal effects on blood cholesterol levels.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ‘surprised’ the researchers with the discovery that consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming a comparable amount of plant proteins.

“I was surprised that the effect of white meat on cholesterol levels was identical to the effects of red meat,” said Dr Ronald Krauss, study author and director of atherosclerosis research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

Saturated fats, most of which come from animal sources, include butter, beef fat and poultry skin, increase the concentration of “bad” cholesterol, in one’s bloodstream which can result to a heart attack or stroke.

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“Our new finding was that the level of LDL cholesterol was the same with both red meat and white meat, and that the LDL level was lower with plant-based protein,” Krauss told a science website, Gizmodo.

According to the new study, plant proteins such as vegetables, dairy, and legumes, including beans, show the best cholesterol benefit as they had the healthiest impact on blood cholesterol.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer warned that processed meats such as bacon, sausages and ham can cause cancer.

In its statement, the agency said there was enough evidence to rank processed meat in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

The agency also said that there was evidence that eating a lot of red meat (beef, lamb and pork) could expose one to cancers of the colon, pancreas and even prostate.

But it is not all doom and gloom for meat lovers as the University of California, San Francisco researchers said that the long-held belief that eating white meat is less harmful for your heart may still hold true, because there may be other effects from eating red meat that contributes to cardiovascular disease.

So, for those who eschew steak in favour of chicken because they think it's healthier may be able to put lean beef back on the menu.

In the recent study led by scientists at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), 113 adults were randomly assigned to one of three diets for one month: rich in lean cuts of beef, lean cuts of chicken or turkey, or plant proteins.

More than 100 healthy men and women between ages 21 and 65 were randomly assigned to either the high-saturated fat, provided primarily by butter and full-fat foods, or low saturated fat groups.

For four weeks at a time, chosen in random order, the volunteers would eat a diet high in white meat, red meat, or non-animal proteins, then rotate to the other diets.

Along the way, their blood would be tested for levels of total cholesterol as well as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol—the “bad” kind of cholesterol that can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries and raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The main source of red meat provided by the researchers was beef, while chicken served as the main white meat protein.

All participants, who abstained from alcohol for the duration of the study, cycled through three test diets: red meat diet, white meat diet and then a no meat diet.

“These results were similar whether or not the diets were high or low in saturated fat. So the result can be viewed as indicating either a cholesterol raising effect of both meats, or a cholesterol lowering effect of plant foods, or both,” added Dr Krauss.