new research study, funded by the beef checkoff and the National Institutes of Health-supported Penn State General Clinical Research Center, published in the June 19 issue of Journal of Human Hypertension, shows that a heart-healthy diet that includes lean beef can reduce risk factors for heart disease.

Myth: Saturated fat is bad for you.

Conventional Wisdom: Many researchers have now begun to reevaluate the role of saturated fats in heart disease. 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. 4

Furthermore, many people may be surprised to know that beef contributes 10 percent or less of saturated fat and total fat to the American diet.2 And, about half the fatty acids found in beef are monounsaturated fatty acids3, the same kind found in olive oil and avocados. The recently published study in the Journal of Human Hypertension 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.1

In a press release issued by Penn State, lead researcher Penny M. Kris-Etherton noted that “this 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.”

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 in the Journal of Human Hypertension. This DASH-like diet is also called the BOLD+ diet — Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet plus additional protein.

“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 stated.

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  1. Roussell MA, Hill AM, Gaugler TL, Trent LG, West SG, Ulbrecht JS, Vanden Heuvel JP, Gillies PJ, and Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of a DASH-like diet containing lean beef on vascular health. Journal of Human Hypertension 2014. [Accepted, not yet published]

  2. Zanovec M, O'Neil CE, Keast DR, Fulgoni VL 3rd, Nicklas TA. Lean beef contributes significant amounts of key nutrients to the diets of US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. Nutr Res 2010;30:375-81.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Available at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.

  4. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann of Intern Med 2014;160:398-406.