Lean beef okay for certain diets

January 6, 2012 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Lean beef okay for certain diets

People using a plant based diet to lower their cholesterol may be able to eat lean beef and get similar results, suggests a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, was small but very well controlled, with participants' diets closely monitored.

The new research followed 36 men and women with high cholesterol as they ate four different diets for five weeks each. 

The diets were as follows: the "healthy American diet" allowed for more oils, saturated fat and refined grains compared to the "DASH" diet based on fruits and vegetables; the two other diets that each included lean cuts of beef. All diets had about the same number of calories.

Participants were closely monitored the men and women between late 2007 and early 2009.

To make sure each person stuck to the regimens, participants in the study ate one meal a day at Penn State's Metabolic Diet Study Center. The rest of the meals were prepared by the Center and packed to be eaten later.

At the start of the study, the mean LDL, or "bad," cholesterol for the group was 139 mg/dL (3.6 mmol/L) and average total cholesterol was 211 mg/dL (5.46 mmol/L). Those are considered borderline-high numbers according to the National Institutes of Health's standards. The group's mean HDL, or "good," cholesterol was 52 mg/dL (1.34 mmol/L), which is the recommended level.

Compared to the healthy American diet, which slightly raised cholesterol, the vegetable- and fruit-based DASH diet and the diets including lean beef lowered LDL and total cholesterol to a mean of 129 and 200 mg/dL (3.3 and 5.18 mmol/L), respectively.

The diets also slightly lowered the group's mean levels of "good" cholesterol, which the researchers said can be explained by the fact that saturated fat raises HDL.

The lean beef diets were lower in saturated fat than an average American diet, which contains more full-fat cheese and butter.

The beef diets included between 4 and 5.5 ounces a day of lean meats, primarily in the form of top round, chuck shoulder pot roast and lean ground beef. Meats were grilled, braised, or in the case of ground beef, fried.

The study was jointly funded by Penn State and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The study suggests that lean cuts of beef, eaten in small portions, can be part of a hearty healthy diet.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Online December 20, 2011.

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