White Meat vs. Red Meat and Cholesterol Levels

Many people choose white meat over red in the belief that white meat is less likely to lead to high cholesterol levels. But when it comes to cholesterol, there may be little difference between the two.

A new study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, randomized 113 healthy adults, aged 21 to 65, to one of two diet programs. The first consumed a high-saturated-fat diet with 25 percent of energy coming from protein in three different sources for four weeks each: red meat, white meat and nonmeat (vegetables and some dairy products). The second did the same three-part program while on a low-saturated-fat diet.

As expected, the high-saturated-fat diets resulted in higher LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) than the low-saturated-fat diets. And both of the meat diets resulted in higher levels of LDL and total cholesterol than the vegetable-based diets.

But in either high- or low-saturated-fat programs, red meat and white meat resulted in the same levels of LDL and total cholesterol. There was no benefit in sticking to white meat.

“The study is most relevant to people trying to lower LDL,” said the senior author, Ronald M. Krauss, a senior scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. “It doesn’t speak to the health effects of red and white meat, which are more complicated than just the effect on LDL.”

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