A recent study called the APPROACH – Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health – trial looked at the effects of diets high and low in saturated fats among healthy people. The results showed that white meat, such as chicken and turkey, may raise blood cholesterol levels as much as red meat. The results surprised the researchers, who did not expect to find higher blood cholesterol levels in those within the study who ate a diet high in poultry.
The APPROACH Study
Researchers assigned 113 healthy people to three different types of diets – red meat, white meat, and plant-based protein. The researchers aimed to look at the difference in blood cholesterol levels with the different diets and varying levels of saturated fats. The participants cycled through each of the diets for four weeks, with a wash-out period between each where they ate their normal diets. Cholesterol and other blood tests were done before and after each diet period. Additionally, participants refrained from taking any vitamin supplements or alcohol during the study.
The findings showed that participants in the high-saturated fat group had more total and LDL cholesterol levels than those in the low-saturated fat group, however both red and white meat raised LDL levels, regardless of the amount of saturated fat in the diet.
Senior study researcher Dr. Ronald Krauss, senior scientist and director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute said, “When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have more of an adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case. Their effect on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.”
Essentially, the study found that white and red meats had the same effects on blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found naturally in fatty beef, poultry with skin, butter, cream, and cheeses. Too much LDL cholesterol from saturated fats can create plaque in blood vessels, leading to blockages that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The findings from this study went against current dietary guidelines, which encourage white meat as a healthier alternative to red meat. While the study was small, it was well executed and rigorous; it was also the first study to compare the health effects of eating diets high in red meat, white meat and nonmeat proteins (such as legumes, nuts, grains and soy).
The researchers noted limitations of the study including the size, duration, and that there may be other factors in red meat that can increase risk of poor cardiovascular health that were not explored. However, the overall message of the study is quite simple: eat more plants and more plant-based protein and limit intake of saturated fats.
What can you do?
If you’re interested in eating more plants and plant-based proteins, then you have come to the right place! At O2 Living, we value a vegan, plant-based diet and post healthy, vegan recipes weekly. All Living Juices, by the makers of Living Health and Wellness, are also organic, cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, perfect for adding fruits and veggies to your daily diet and for transitioning to a more plant-based diet! Living Juices are available online for delivery on Living Juice's website and on Amazon! Learn more about the study here.