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Heart Health & Cholesterol: Does eating chicken impact cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease?

Does eating chicken impact cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease?

The current scientific evidence does not support the commonly held, but misinformed belief that cholesterol from the diet increases the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals. Many studies have found that including lean chicken as part of your eating pattern can lead to a reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, as well as less risk of heart disease.

Grilled Chicken

Is eating white meat like chicken bad for cholesterol levels?

A 2019 study that made media headlines found that “lean” white meat had the same effect on cholesterol levels as “lean” red meat. Because of how the study was designed, it was difficult to know if the results were caused by the meat or the other food items in the sample menu fed to study participants that contained high amounts of saturated fats.

The study also had a small sample size (113 people) and was done over a brief period (4 weeks) – so the results might not be the same with more people studied over a longer period.

Researchers in the study measured blood cholesterol levels, not actual incidents of heart issues or the development of heart disease. Blood cholesterol levels are markers of potential risk, but not evidence of cause-and-effect. The results of this study also do not hold up when looking at the larger body of evidence on white meat that assessed health associations of poultry versus associations with health markers.

  • No link found between white meat consumption or overall meat consumption and higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • White meat was associated with a 13% decrease in risk of stroke.
  • Poultry intake is not associated with total stroke risk.

It is important to remember that whole diets and eating patterns matter more than single nutrients. Perfectly healthy diets are possible with both animal and plant proteins as well as an abundance of other plant-based foods. Chicken also has a role within the context of a low-fat eating plan or in a cholesterol-lowering diet. For example, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet emphasizes chicken, fish, and includes nuts and low-fat dairy products, alongside high amounts of fruits and vegetables.


  1. Abete I, et al. Association between total, processed, red and white meat consumption and all-cause, CVD and IHD mortality: A meta-analysis of cohort studies. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;112(5):762-775.
  2. Beauchesne-Rondeau, E, et al. Plasma lipids and lipoproteins in hypercholesterolemic men fed a lipid-lowering diet containing lean beef, lean fish, or poultry. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003;77(3):587-593.
  3. Bergeron N, Chiu S, Williams PT, M King S, Krauss RM. Effects of red meat, white meat, and nonmeat protein sources on atherogenic lipoprotein measures in the context of low compared with high saturated fat intake: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019;110(1):24–33.
  4. Chiavaroli L, Viguiliouk E, Nishi SK, et al. DASH dietary pattern and cardiometabolic outcomes: An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analysesNutrients. 2019;11(2):338.
  5. Kim K, et al. Role of total, red, processed, and white meat consumption in stroke incidence and mortality: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of prospective cohort studies. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2017;6(9):e005983.
  6. Mohammadi H, et al. Dietary poultry intake and the risk of stroke: A dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN. 2018;23:25-33.
  7. Scott L, Dunn J, Pownall H. Effects of beef and chicken consumption in plasma lipid levels in hypercholesterolaemic men. Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1261-7.
  8. Guenther P, Jensen H, Batres-Marquez S, Chen C. Sociodemographic, knowledge, and attitudinal factors related to meat consumption in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105(8):1266-74.

Does eating chicken promote heart health?

Chicken Promotes Heart Health

Yes! Chicken provides under-consumed vitamins and minerals, and can be center of the plate for a heart-healthy, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, such as the DASH.


  1. Siervo M, et al. Effects of the dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;113(1):1-15.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Available at: Accessed September 10, 2019.
  3. Mohammadi H, et al. Dietary poultry intake and the risk of stroke: A dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN. 2018;23, 25-33.