Meat on a low fat diet
Report #6413 1/26/95
If you're trying to lower a high cholesterol, you have to restrict your intake of meat,
fish and chicken.
Having a high cholesterol markedly increases your chances of developing a heart attack.
Saturated fat raises cholesterol more than any other component in food. However, it
does this only when you take in more calories than you burn. If you burn all the
calories you take in, there is none left over to raise cholesterol.
A lot of people eat chicken and fish because they think that it will lower cholesterol.
However, substituting chicken for beef does not lower cholesterol and substituting beef
for chicken does not raise it. The same applies to fish. Even though meat contains more
saturated fat than chicken and fish do, much of the extra saturated fat in meat comes
from stearic acid which does not raise cholesterol much. For example, chocolate is also
loaded with saturated fat but it does not raise cholesterol much because most of its
saturated fat is stearic acid. If you want a diet to lower cholesterol or lose weight,
you have to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans and limit your intake
of meat, fish and chicken. It makes sense to eat fish two or three times a week, because
it helps to prevent clotting, the last event in a heart attack. However, there is no
extra anticlotting benefit from eating fish more than three times a week or taking fish
By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News
1) MA Denke. Role of beef and beef tallow, an enriched source of stearic acid, in a
cholesterol-lowering diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 60: 6 Suppl.;
(DEC 1994):S1044-S1049. Because beef fat is 19% stearic acid, the cholesterol-raising
potential of beef is not as great as predicted by its total saturated fatty acid content.
Therefore, curtailment of beef tallow in a cholesterol lowering diet seems appropriate.
Data suggest that lean beef is no more hypercholesterolemic than chicken or fish.
2) PM Krisetherton, VA Mustad. Chocolate feeding studies: A novel approach for
evaluating the plasma lipid effects of stearic acid. American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition 60: 6 Suppl.;DEC 1994:S1029-S1036. Milk chocolate does not adversely affect
plasma lipids and lipoproteins despite its relatively high content of saturated fatty
acids (SFAs). Evidence from well-controlled feeding studies indicates that this unique
response is due to the high proportion of stearic acid in milk chocolate.
3) PM Krisetherton, JA Derr, VA Mustad, FH Seligson, TA Pearson. Effects of a milk
chocolate bar per day substituted for a high-carbohydrate snack in young men on an
NCEP/AHA Step 1 Diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 60: 6 Suppl.;
DEC 1994:S1037 S1042. Substitution of a milk chocolate bar for a high-carbohydrate
snack did not adversely affect the low-density- lipoprotein-(LDL) cholesterol
response to a Step 1 Diet despite an increase in total fat and saturated fatty acid
content of the diet. This response may be due to stearic acid.
4) RM Dougherty, MA Allman, JM Iacono. Total and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol
lipoprotein fractions and fecal fatty acid excretion of men consuming diets containing
high concentrations of stearic acid. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 60:
6 Suppl.:DEC 1994:S1043.