Lean beef makes the cut 
for heart-healthy diet choices

Counting cholesterol? | Health experts say lean beef can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol

Is beef the new chicken?

A study recently released by Pennsylvania State University researchers might lend support to the idea.

By comparing four diets on 36 human test subjects, they found lean beef contributes to a heart-healthy diet in the same way as lean white meat such as chicken.

“We designed a heart healthy diet for people with elevated cholesterol levels and it included lean beef,” said nutrition professor Penny Kris-Etherton.

“We saw similar blood cholesterol lowering effects as a low beef diet or a DASH diet.”

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is considered the “gold standard” for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, she said. It emphasizes plant protein food and limited red meat.

Kris-Etherton and her research team tested the DASH diet against the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet, as well as BOLD+, which included more beef and other sources of protein.

They found that total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) de-creased in all three diets. LDL cholesterol was reduced by five percent in the BOLD diet, 4.5 percent in the BOLD+ diet and almost six percent in the DASH diet.


“To our knowledge, this was the first controlled consumption study that showed an increase in lean beef consumption while controlling saturated fat in the context of a heart healthy diet associated with significant decreases in LDL cholesterol,” researchers wrote.

Kris-Etherton said the study results were not a surprise. The diets showing best results in lowering LDL cholesterol contained little saturated fat, which is key to cholesterol reduction.

Nor did the study surprise Karine Gale of Canada Beef Inc.

“The research is definitely mounting that lean beef does not increase your risk of heart disease. The recent BOLD study was just the latest in the growing body of evidence that attests to this,” said Gale in an e-mail. “There’s also mounting evidence that increasing the amount of protein in our diets is good for heart health as well.”

However, lean was the watchword.

Michael Roussell, lead Penn State researcher, said lean cuts and portion size are the key messages consumers can take from the study.

“A lot of people attribute eating red meat to lots of saturated fat and it’s generally not the case,” he said.


“In the U.S., beef doesn’t even come in the top five of our number one sources of saturated fat.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency de-fines lean as having less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat.

Canada Beef statistics indicate 71 percent of Canadians buy lean or extra lean ground beef and nearly 80 percent of them trim visible fat from beef before or after cooking.

A Harvard School of Public Health study supports the Penn State findings, according to Canada Beef Inc.

It said consuming 100 grams per day of fresh red meat, defined as unprocessed, single-ingredient meat, is not linked to development of coronary heart disease.

Previous studies recommending against red meat consumption may have included processed meats in their findings, it speculated.

Heart disease is responsible for more than 25 percent of American deaths. It is in the top three causes of death in Canada, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.