A new research study, funded by the beef checkoff and the National Institutes of Health-supported Penn State General Clinical Research Center, and published last month in the Journal of Human Hypertension, shows that a heart-healthy diet that includes lean beef can reduce risk factors for heart disease.
Though conventional wisdom says saturated fats are all bad for you, researchers have now begun to reevaluate the role of saturated fats in heart disease, the checkoff says.
A review of more than 70 clinical studies raised questions about current guidelines related to fat intake, which generally restrict the consumption of saturated fats and encourage consumption of polyunsaturated fats to prevent heart disease.
Beef, however, contributes only 10% or less of saturated fat and total fat to the American diet. And, about half the fatty acids found in beef are monounsaturated fatty acids, the same kind found in olive oil and avocados.
The study, conducted at Penn State, also shows that a dietary pattern rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, that includes lean beef, even daily, can reduce risk factors for heart disease, including elevated cholesterol and blood pressure.
Lead researcher Penny Kris-Etherton, in a University statement, said the research "adds to the significant evidence, including work previously done in our lab, that supports lean beef's role in a heart-healthy diet.
"This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease," Kris-Etherton said.
The DASH eating plan – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – is currently recommended by the American Heart Association to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease. People following the DASH diet are encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein predominantly from plant sources.
Lean beef can be enjoyed as the predominant protein source in a DASH-like diet, along with fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, to effectively help lower blood pressure in healthy individuals, the researchers report.
"This evidence suggests that it is the total protein intake -- not the type of protein -- that is instrumental in reducing blood pressure, as part of a DASH-like dietary pattern," the researchers said.