Red Meat Makes a Comeback!

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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red meat makes a comeback

If you’re bored with eating chicken but haven’t wanted to risk your heart health by adding a juicy steak to your menu, savor this news:  

When levels of saturated fat are the same, red meat and white meat have identical effects on bad cholesterol and neither have an impact on the really bad type of cholesterol.

The results of a small study, published recently in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, call into question what experts have been telling us for years about red meat and its place on a heart-healthy plate.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute named their study the APPROACH (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health) Trial. Going in, they suspected that, in terms of adverse effects on cholesterol levels, white meat would be a healthier protein choice than red meat. They were surprised.

In the APPROACH trial, 113 adult subjects were assigned to one of three diets:

  • High in lean red meat (beef, pork)
  • High in lean white meat (chicken, turkey)
  • High in plant proteins (nuts, legumes, soy, grains)

At the end of one month, the participant’s diets were changed, so every participant ended up consuming each of the three menus for a month.

The other important variable in the subject’s diets was that half of the participants consumed a high-saturated fat diet throughout the study, and the other half was kept on a low-saturated fat diet. The trial did not study seafood or fish; these were excluded from the diets. Grain-finished beef was used in the study, as that is what makes up the biggest portion of the US beef market (grass-finished beef represents only about 4% of the United States market). Processed meats, like bacon or sausage, were also excluded from the subjects’ diets.

At the end of every month, LDL cholesterol levels were measured. Astonishingly, the blood cholesterol levels were higher on both meat sources when compared to the plant protein diet.

The study also found that the intake of high amounts of saturated fat, (as well as both red and white meat when compared to non-meat diets), raised the amounts of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles. But, these larger particles are not as closely associated with cardiovascular disease as smaller LDL particles.

The upshot? There is more and more research showing that eating a good steak is not a health issue. In fact, when you see studies these days that claim to show that red meat is a problem, if you read the fine print you’ll see that it’s processed red meats like nitrite laden bacon, sausage, or hot dogs. So go out and enjoy a steak this weekend, it’s likely to have no negative impact on your health!

Category: Nutrition

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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