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How Chicken Can Help Tackle Blood Pressure

New research suggests that eating lean chicken more frequently might promote reducing blood pressure for people at high-risk of heart disease.

Following a Mediterranean (MED) diet is strongly linked with better overall heart health. Recent research* presented at the American Society for Nutrition conference, Nutrition 2023, now shows that lean chicken breast can be included as part of a MED diet to benefit some markers of heart health.

The study, conducted by Dr. Wayne Campbell, professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, found that when 53 middle-aged adults at risk of heart disease were able to choose from a list of protein foods included in a 12-week MED diet study, those who chose unprocessed chicken breast strips at dinner more frequently had a greater tendency for larger reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

“This was exploratory in the sense that the dietary guidelines indicate as part of a healthy diet, you may choose from a variety of lean meats, which may include lean poultry. Here, we happen to have an experiment where all the foods were exactly the same except for choice at dinner, but choices were from an approved list of foods.”

-Dr. Campbell

On the other hand, seafood (salmon, shrimp) and beef (lean ground, lean sirloin) did not have the same predictive association with blood pressure. Overall, following a MED diet improved several risk factors for heart disease, regardless of the protein choice as well.

Dr. Campbell stresses that consuming the healthy MED diet with lean meats, including chicken, clinically improved blood pressure.

“These people dropped their blood pressure by 6%, highly clinically relevant, especially for people at high-risk of heart disease.”

-Dr. Campbell

Dr. Wayne Campbell presented his poster, “Impact of Dinner Meat Sources on Changes in Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors with a Mediterranean Diet: Secondary Analysis From a Randomized Controlled Trial,” at Nutrition 2023 in Boston, MA, on Sunday, July 23, 2023. This study was not funded by the National Chicken Council.

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for American Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern, the average person should include 26 ounces of land-based animal foods per week in their diet. These protein-rich foods may include lean poultry, red meats, and eggs. One 3.5-ounce serving of chicken eaten four times per week meets half of the weekly recommendation.

These guidelines can be easily adapted to include MED diet flavors and foods, including lean chicken. Try this Chicken Tenders with Swiss Chard and Israeli Couscous recipe, for example.

Chicken is not only a delicious and versatile choice, but it also is backed by dietary recommendations and research, making it a healthy addition to your eating routine, especially if trying to lower blood pressure.

“If you choose to include meat as part of a diet that aims to reduce blood pressure, lean poultry would be a good choice.”

-Dr. Campbell

Dr. Campbell’s research lab has published papers on the role of chicken in health, and has several studies underway that will continue building on the science behind chicken’s role in a healthy eating plan.

*Please note that invited research presented at Nutrition 2023 has not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. While these results are promising, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.