Contrary to popular belief, red and white meat have equal effects on blood cholesterol levels, according to new research from the United States.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and led by scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (Chori), found that eating large amounts of red meat or white meat increased levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) – often dubbed “bad” cholesterol – present in the blood.
The study focused on generally healthy men and women aged 21-65 years, who were randomly split into two groups.
Volunteers were allocated to red meat, white meat or non-meat protein diets consumed for four weeks each in random order.
“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent,” said study senior author and Chori senior scientist and Atherosclerosis Research director Dr Ronald Krauss.
Often associated with contributing to “bad” cholesterol levels, red meat consumption is generally recommended in moderation, while white meat, which is generally leaner, is usually considered a healthier alternative.
However, the study suggests that this may not be the case.
In fact, the results suggest that restricting meat altogether – whether red or white – could prove more advisable than previously thought for lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Indeed, the study suggests that plant proteins, such as beans, are the healthiest choice for blood cholesterol levels.
“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol,” Dr Krauss said.
“Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.” – AFP Relaxnews
- Cheese may not be such a heart-clogger after all.
- A study of middle-aged, overweight adults in Ireland suggests that eating cheese isn’t bad for your cholesterol. In fact, there’s some evidence full-fat cheese may have a protective effect on the heart.
- Scientists think there might be something special about the way calcium and protein is arranged in cheese that creates this effect.
- They call it the “cheese matrix.”
Cheese fans have long felt that enjoying some protein-packed, fatty cheese is the ticket to a better life.
Now science is starting to back them up.
Cheese is high in saturated fat, which is often considered dangerous for your heart. Most nutritionists say we should only nibble limited doses of the heart-clogging fat.
But nutrition experts around the world are discovering in study after study that dairy may not be as bad for your heart as once thought. Certain kinds of fatty dairy, including cheese, could even help lower cholesterol, though more robust studies of larger groups of cheese-eaters are needed to know for sure.
In the latest study, researchers found that middle-aged, overweight adults who ate full-fat cheddar cheese reduced their cholesterol more than peers eating reduced fat cheese or butter, suggesting there’s something special about the way old-fashioned cheese works inside the body. (The study was funded, in part, by Irish dairy companies, but the researchers reached their conclusions independently.)
Study participants ate huge amounts of full-fat cheddar cheese for six weeks straight
The food scientists behind the latest cheese investigation think they have zeroed in on something special about the aged, fatty food that makes it better for cholesterol than other dairy products.
This is what they call the cheese matrix: the specific way that nutrients like protein and calcium are arranged inside the yummy blocks.
“I suppose the ‘cheese matrix’ does make it sound very mystical,” lead study author Emma Feeney, who studies human nutrition and metabolism at University College Dublin, told Business Insider. “It’s really not, it’s just a fancy word for the overall structure.”
Feeney’s study of 164 overweight, middle aged Irish adults, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition earlier this month, found that participants who incorporated blocks of full-fat Irish cheddar cheese in their diets, while limiting other dairy intake to just two ounces of milk per day, didn’t gain weight.
Instead, participants lowered both their total cholesterol and levels of so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol. They ate a ton of cheese while doing it, too: 120 grams a day, or more than half a standard Irish cheese block. It’s the kind of cheese block meant to serve an entire household of cheese lovers.
The findings go hand in hand with another study published in July, which followed more than 2,900 American adults for more than two decades. That study found people who consumed full-fat dairy had no greater risk of dying from any cause, including heart attacks, than anyone else.
Increasingly, food scientists are discovering that counting calories or focusing on avoiding specific food groups, like carbohydrates or fat, isn’t really the secret to a long or healthy life.
“We need to stop thinking about foods in terms of their fat and their saturated fat content, and thinking about them as a whole food,” Feeney said.
During the study, Feeney broke participants down into four groups. The first group were the full-fat cheese eaters, ingesting the whopping 120 grams of cheddar a day. A second group of study participants ate reduced-fat cheddar and butter. A third ate butter in addition to protein powder and calcium supplements (mimicking the nutritional value of cheese), and a fourth group had no cheese at all.
Full-fat cheese eaters reduced their cholesterol most effectively, while the reduced-fat cheese eaters and butter-plus-supplement group lowered their cholesterol a bit, but not as well.
The study authors think this might be evidence that calcium and protein in cheese, eaten as a whole food and not as a supplement or reduced-fat diet food, may best reduce the artery-clogging effects of butterfat on the body.
There’s a big caveat, however. Since so many people dropped out of the no-cheese-allowed group (who wants to volunteer to not eat cheese for six weeks?) the study numbers in that category aren’t robust enough to know for sure that eating cheese can actively help reduce cholesterol, compared to not eating any cheese at all.
“We wouldn’t be able to conclusively say that from these results,” Feeney cautioned. “But certainly, it does look that way.”
What’s so special about cheese?
- Cheddar cheese-making includes a process called ‘cheddaring.’
Nutritionists from around the world are starting to notice that people who eat more fermented dairy products, like cheese and yogurt, are at a lower risk for developing heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. While the reasons why aren’t fully understood, there are a couple big clues.
The first has to do with dairy protein.
Casein, a complete protein in cheese and milk, digests slower than most other animal proteins. Casein is a big part of the protein component in dairy: in sheep’s milk cheese, for example, anywhere between 76-83% of the proteins are casein.
Cheese is also more fat-concentrated than milk, because cheese-making separates liquid whey from curds, adding in bacteria and converting milk sugars into lactic acid, making the product less watery.
In the case of cheddar, there’s a “cheddaring” process in which salt is added and the product is stacked, turned, and aged. During this time, bacteria break down the proteins in cheddar cheese, giving it a characteristically chewy texture and cheesy flavor.
But not everyone thinks this aged dairy protein is good for us.
Thomas Colin Campbell, biochemist and author of The China Study, has taken a critical view of casein and spent decades studying how plant-based diets are better for health than animal products.
Campbell does acknowledge, however, that breaking nutrition down into individual components in food doesn’t create a clear picture of how our bodies process what we eat.
“Investigating the independent effects of one substance at a time, as with casein, is very incomplete and misleading, even though such information can be very valuable as a stepping stone to a larger truth,” he wrote on his blog.
Don’t break the membrane
There is one more potential explanation for why cheese fat may be better for us than butter fat, and it lies in something called the milkfat globule membrane. The “MGM” is a tiny outer shell that surrounds individual fatty acid droplets (lipids) in milk, and it isn’t preserved in butter.
“When you make butter, you break that membrane up, and it’s actually drained off,” Feeney said.
(Other MGM-rich dairy, like cream, contains twice the milkfat globule membranes of butter per gram of fat, and won’t raise LDL cholesterol levels, either.)
Despite the seemingly good news about cheese and cholesterol, Feeneysays moderation is still key:
“We would not recommend that people go off and eat 120 grams of cheese every day,” she said. But “a piece of cheese, the recommended portions of cheese, are not going to do you any harm.”
One of the best things to look forward to every Chinese New Year – aside from getting ang pow – is the delectable festive food indulgences.
From all the cookie-munching during house-visiting to the all-time favourite dishes you just can’t miss at family and friends’ reunions, it is no surprise that most of us tend to gain a little, if not a lot, festive weight during this occasion.
This is especially if we really celebrate the entire 15 days of the New Year.
But the tight jeans and pretty dresses that we can no longer fit into are not the main issue of concern.
Most of these tasty festive treats can turn into health threats when over-indulged in, especially if they contain high amounts of salt, sugar and fats.
While going on a diet this, or any, Chinese New Year is probably not really something most of us can achieve, we can control the damage by making smart choices to save us from any post-overindulgent regrets.
This can be done by practicing moderation, making healthier food choices, and getting in some form of exercise and physical activity whenever you are able to.
Let’s take a look at a few popular Chinese New Year delicacies that are satisfying to the taste buds, but contain high amount of fats, sugar and salt.
Lap mei fan
This is a popular dish at Chinese New Year reunion dinners and is prized for its high fat content.
Also known as waxed meat claypot rice, this dish is made with different types of waxed meat, as well as Chinese pork sausage and Chinese duck or goose liver sausage.
As the main ingredients are processed meat, this dish contains high amounts of salt and saturated fats, which consist mainly of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
If you are making this dish at home, try opting for healthier alternatives, such as using fresh and lean meat instead, and eating it with a balanced serving of vegetables on the side.
If you’re eating this in a restaurant, then make sure to eat more vegetables as the soluble fibre in the greens may help to lower the bad cholesterol.
Bak kwa, as seen in this filepic, is a popular snack, especially during Chinese New Year, and requires self-control to not overindulge.
Similar to jerky, this Chinese-style sweet-savoury barbecued preserved meat is an all-time favourite snack amongst the Chinese.
It is often eaten either on its own or with bread as a sandwich filling.
Made out of processed meat and internal organs from animal sources, bak kwa contains high salt, sugar and saturated fats.
One piece (90g) of bak kwa gives you about 370kcal of energy.
Its high fat content comes from the minced meat, which is often the fatter part of the meat, rather than lean mince, to provide tenderness and flavour.
There is no healthy way to enjoy this snack aside from practicing moderation.
Always keep in mind that high consumption of saturated fats will lead to the increase of bad cholesterol in our body, which increases our risk for heart disease.
Eating the skin of the Peking duck, as seen in this filepic, is equivalent to eating the fattest part of the duck. Try going for the lean meat instead.
Duck meat is among the most flavourful poultry meats and roasted duck is a favourite dish among the Chinese.
Eating the skin by itself in the popular dish, peking duck roll, pretty much equals to consuming the part of the duck with the highest level of saturated fat.
Try going for the lean meat should you enjoy this tasty choice of poultry as it contains less saturated fat, and eat it together with more greens.
Also, for a healthier choice, do not pair eating this with a sweet or fizzy drink that is high in sugar content. Instead, take plain Chinese tea or water with it.
Eating kuih kapit directly out of the tin, as seen in this filepic, tends to lead to having one too many. Count them out first and eat them from a plate.
Do not underestimate the diminutive size of these fan-shaped snacks.
Kuih kapit, also known as love letters, gets its taste mainly from the high amount of coconut milk or santan used to make it. Coconut milk contains high levels of saturated fats that raise the bad cholesterol in our bodies.
As these treats are small in size and rather addictive, we tend to pop a little too many into our mouth without much control or knowing when exactly to stop munching.
Four pieces of this snack (50g) totals up to 210 calories.
So, next time, instead of snacking on them directly out of the tin and losing count of how many you’ve eaten, put them onto small serving dishes where you can control exactly how many you eat.
Health is wealth
Let’s face the facts, practising self-control and moderation in the face of a festivity with so much good food can be tough.
But there are ways to help balance out this short period of overindulgence.
Increasing your physical activity is one method.
Don’t just sit around chatting with your relatives all the time, get up and move from group to group to socialise more, remain standing up while you chat, walk around the house or garden you are visiting, help with the serving or cleaning up, and of course, keep up your regular exercise routine, whether it be going to the gym or walking around the park.
You can also try taking foods or drinks that are rich in plant sterols to help lower bad cholesterol. Research shows that consuming 1.2g of plant sterols daily can help to lower cholesterol levels by about seven percent.
By lowering bad cholesterol, one can reduce potential health risks and heart disease.
And do not disregard getting your regular medical check-ups as a precautionary step to ensure your good health and counter any unwanted health issues.
High cholesterol levels and heart disease do not discriminate between young or old and fit or unfit. Remember that at the end of the day, the greatest prosperity that one can ask for is good health.
And prevention is always better than a cure.
This article is courtesy of Nestlé Omega Plus.