Why Switching from Beef to Chicken or Fish May Not Lower Your Cholesterol

By Forks Over Knives,

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It’s common for people to give up red meat in an attempt to get healthier and lower their cholesterol levels. But does choosing chicken and fish over beef help to lower cholesterol? In this Nutritionfacts.org video, Dr. Michael Greger takes a look at what the research shows. We’ve also included a summary of the video below.

In response to recommendations by national medical organizations encouraging Americans to reduce their meat intake, the beef industry commissioned and co-wrote a review of randomized controlled trials. The review looked at scientific trials over the last 60 years that studied the effects of beef versus chicken and fish on cholesterol levels.

The report found that the impact of beef on human cholesterol is similar to that of fish and/or poultry. (We’re not surprised, since our genetically manipulated chickens contain ten times more fat than they did a century ago.) There are even some cuts of beef with less cholesterol-raising saturated fat than chicken.

The industry-funded review concluded that beef has a part in a balanced diet for people attempting to manage or lower their cholesterol. But that sounds like the logic behind the Coke versus Pepsi debate. Coke has 15 spoonfuls of sugar to Pepsi’s 16 spoonfuls. However, that doesn’t mean that Coke is a good for people trying to manage their blood sugar or eat a healthy diet.

The Conclusion on Cholesterol:

  • The standard dietary advice to cut down on fatty meat, dairy, and eggs may lower cholesterol by 5-10 percent.
  • Flexitarian or vegetarian diets may lower cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 percent.
  • Vegan diets may lower cholesterol levels by 15 to 25 percent.
  • Healthy vegan diets can lower cholesterol levels up to 35 percent.

Dr. Greger's Sources:
K C Maki, M E Van Elswyk, T M Rains, E L Sohn, S McNeill. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that compare the lipid effects of beef versus poultry and/or fish consumption. J Clin Lipidol. 2012 Jul-Aug;6(4):352-61.
E Ashton, M Ball. Effects of soy as tofu vs meat on lipoprotein concentrations. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;54(1):14-9.
E L Ashton, F S Dalais, M J Ball. Effect of meat replacement by tofu on CHD risk factors including copper induced LDL oxidation. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Nov-Dec;19(6):761-7.
K K Carroll, P M Giovannetti, M W Huff, O Moase, D C Roberts, B M Wolfe. Hypocholesterolemic effect of substituting soybean protein for animal protein in the diet of healthy young women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978 Aug;31(8):1312-21.
R L Shorey, B Bazan, G S Lo, F H Steinke. Determinants of hypocholesterolemic response to soy and animal protein-based diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981 Sep;34(9):1769-78.
S L Wiebe, V M Bruce, B E McDonald. A comparison of the effect of diets containing beef protein and plant proteins on blood lipids of healthy young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1984 Nov;40(5):982-9.
P M Clifton. Protein and coronary heart disease: the role of different protein sources. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2011 Dec;13(6):493-8.
H R Ferdowsian, N D Barnard. Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. Am J Cardiol. 2009 Oct 1;104(7):947-56.
D J Jenkins, C W Kendall, A Marchie, D Faulkner, E Vidgen, K G Lapsley, E A Trautwein, T L Parker, R G Josse, L A Leiter, P W Connelly. The effect of combining plant sterols, soy protein, viscous fibers, and almonds in treating hypercholesterolemia. Metabolism. 2003 Nov;52(11):1478-83.
Y Wang, C Lehane, K Ghebremeskel, M A Crawford. Modern organic and broiler chickens sold for human consumption provide more energy from fat than protein. Public Health Nutr. 2010 Mar;13(3):400-8.

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