FRIDAY, April 26, 2019 (Pharmacist's Briefing) -- Substituting red meat with high-quality plant protein sources, but not with fish or low-quality carbohydrates, leads to greater improvements in blood lipids and lipoproteins, according to a review published online April 9 in Circulation.
Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to identify trials comparing diets with red meat to diets that replaced red meat with a variety of foods. Comparison diets were stratified into high-quality plant proteins (legumes, soy, nuts), chicken/poultry/fish, fish only, poultry only, mixed animal protein sources (including dairy), carbohydrates (low-quality refined grains and sugars, such as white bread, pasta, rice, cookies/biscuits), or usual diet.
Based on 36 included studies (1,803 participants), the researchers observed no significant differences between red meat and all comparison diets with regard to changes in blood concentrations of total, low-density lipoprotein, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; apolipoprotein A1 and B; or blood pressure. Compared with high-quality plant protein sources, red meat yielded lesser decreases in total cholesterol (weighted mean difference [WMD], 0.264 mmol/L) and low-density lipoprotein (WMD, 0.198 mmol/L). Compared with fish, red meat yielded greater decreases in low-density lipoprotein (WMD, -0.173 mmol/L) and high-density lipoprotein (WMD, -0.065 mmol/L). Red meat yielded greater decreases in triglycerides compared with carbohydrates (WMD, -0.181 mmol/L).
"Inconsistencies regarding the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors are attributable, in part, to the composition of the comparison diet," the authors write.
Two authors disclosed financial ties to the food industry.