For the longest time, popular opinion regard white meat as the healthier option when it comes to heart health because of its lesser saturated fat content than red meat.

However, even scientists from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute were surprised to discover that consuming high levels of poultry or red meat both resulted in high blood cholesterol levels. Contrary to popular belief, the researchers found that white and dark meats have similar association to heart disease risks.

White Meat vs. Dark Meat

CHORI, the research arm of the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, led the study dubbed as Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health or APPROACH trial. The researchers found that eating high amounts of saturated fat raised concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles, which have a weaker connection to cardiovascular disease than smaller LDL particles.

High LDL or bad cholesterol can clog a person's arteries and raise the risks of coronary artery disease and heart attack.

The outpatient study conducted between 2012 and 2016 involved more than 100 men and women from the San Francisco Bay Area aged 21 to 65 and in good health condition. All of them abstained from consuming alcohol for the duration of the research. In the trial, the study participants were randomly assigned to two groups: the first consumed high-saturated fat from butter and full-fat foods, while the other group had foods with low-saturated fat. They were cycled through three test diets: red meat diet, white meat diet, and a no-meat diet.

The diets and menus were developed and prepared by CHORI in collaboration with the Bionutrition Unit of UCSF-based Clinical and Translational Studies Institute. Four-day rotating menus were developed for all diets and made available at 5 energy levels with the provision of snacks. Each experimental diet lasted for four weeks and was concluded with a washout period wherein participants were allowed to eat their usual foods.

Both Meats Have Same Effects On Cholesterol Levels

The participants consumed beef as red meat source, while chicken served as their main white meat protein. The outcome of the study revealed that the effects of red and white meat were similar and were observed with diets containing either low or high levels of saturated fats.

"Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol," said Ronald Krauss, M.D., study senior author, and director of Atherosclerosis Research at CHORI. He added that "other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health."

According to the American Heart Association, only 5 to 6 percent of calories should come from saturated fats. It also advises people to choose healthier food options to lower blood cholesterol levels.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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