Opting to consume chicken or turkey (“white meat”) instead of beef or pork (“red meat”) does not improve body cholesterol levels, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers recruited a group of 113 adults aged 21 to 65 to follow specific meal plans prepared for them by the laboratory for a number of weeks and monitored the group’s blood results throughout. The study group first engaged in a two-week period wherein they consumed an assigned baseline diet to ascertain their ability to follow dietary instructions. Researchers then randomly assigned either diets high in red meat or white meat, followed by four one-week periods when the entire group consumed a meatless diet that included dairy products. Prior to this study, it was commonly believed that the high levels of saturated fat found in red meat, as opposed to poultry products, raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, leading to build-up in human arteries that can cause heart disease. However, researchers found in the new study that levels of LDL did not change depending on the type of meat that participants consumed. “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,” lead author Ronald Krauss told Newsweek. The researchers did not test the effects of a plant-based diet on cholesterol levels but concluded that plant-based protein is favorable to animal-derived meat, both white and red, in relation to heart health.

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