A new study suggests the answer to the “red meat vs. white meat” debate may be “no meat” -- That is, when it comes to cholesterol levels.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, was published Tuesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It concluded that consuming high amounts of red meat or white meat resulted in higher cholesterol levels than consuming an equal amount of non-meat protein.
The long-held belief that white meat is healthier may still be true, as there may be other effects related to cardiovascular disease. This area needs more research, the study noted.
Participants, who abstained from alcohol for the whole study, cycled through three diets: a red meat diet, a white meat diet and then a no meat diet. Each diet lasted four weeks, with a one week “washout period” when participants ate normally. Blood samples were collected from participants at the start and finish of each diet.
The study concluded that plant proteins had the healthiest impact on blood cholesterol. It also showed the effects of white and red meats on participants' cholesterol levels were identical when saturated fat levels were equivalent.
But the key takeaway from the study is to watch out for saturated fat, no matter the protein source. A diet with high levels of saturated fat is associated with higher levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, CNN reported.
"The take-home message is there is no need to put a label of restricted or forbidden on red meat," registered dietician Maria Romo-Palafox told CNN. "Make sure you are choosing the leanest meats possible. If you can adopt a meatless Monday, why not? That might help you balance your risk."
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