For years, physicians have avoided red meat when designing heart-healthy diets for their patients. Turns out that's a bum steer, according to a study published in the June 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
With a grant from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, researchers at Johns Hopkins, the Chicago Center for Clinical Research and the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics put 191 adults with elevated cholesterol levels on a comprehensive low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that included lean meat. Patients were randomly assigned to consume 80 percent of their meat intake from lean red meats (beef, veal or pork) for five to seven days a week for nine months, or to eat lean white meats (fish or poultry) for the same length of time.
At study's end, subjects in both groups had nearly identical changes in their cholesterol levels. All saw an average decrease of 1 to 3 percent in low-density lipoproteins, or "bad cholesterol"; an average increase of 2 percent in high-density lipoproteins, or "good cholesterol"; and an average decrease of 6 percent in triglycerides, molecules needed to make fats.
"Chicken and fish traditionally have been considered healthier than red meat because many cuts of red meat can have too much saturated fat," says Peter O. Kwiterovich, M.D., director of The Johns Hopkins University Lipid Clinic. "Now, lean cuts of red meat are readily available to consumers. If you follow a heart-healthy diet, it doesn't make a difference whether you eat red meat or white meat, as long as you choose lean cuts."
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