Substituting red meat with high-quality plant protein sources, but not fish or low-quality carbohydrates, leads to improved lipid levels

In April 2019 researchers from the USA published their review of the medical scientific literature to assess the effect of red meat consumption on cardiovascular risk factors. A total of 36 studies involving 1,803 individuals were included in the review. The comparison diets included high-quality plant protein sources (legumes, soy, nuts); chicken/poultry/fish; fish only; poultry only; mixed animal protein sources (including dairy); carbohydrates (low-quality refined grains and simple sugars, such as white bread, pasta, rice, cookies/biscuits); or usual diet. Results showed that there were no significant differences between red meat and all comparison diets with respect to cholesterol levels or blood pressure. A further analysis showed that when compared to high-quality plant protein sources, red meat produced lower decreases in total and LDL(bad)-cholesterol levels. In comparison with fish, red meat produced a greater decrease in LDL(bad)- and HDL(good)-cholesterol levels. In comparison with carbohydrates, red meat produced a greater decrease in triglycerides. However, it was noted that the inconsistencies regarding the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors were attributable, in part, to the components of the comparison diet. The researchers therefore concluded that substituting red meat with high-quality plant protein sources, but not with fish or low-quality carbohydrates, could lead to more favorable changes in lipid levels.

Guasch-Ferré M et al. Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Red Meat Consumption in Comparison With Various Comparison Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Circulation. 2019 Apr 9;139(15):1828-1845

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