Substituting red meat with high-quality plant protein sources results in favourable changes in blood lipids and lipoproteins

A recent meta-analysis of 36 randomised controlled trials, representing 1803 participants, compared diets with red meat with diets that replaced red meat with a variety of foods on various cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Comparison diets were stratified into high-quality plant protein sources (legumes, soya, nuts); chicken/poultry/fish; fish only; poultry only; mixed animal protein sources (including dairy); carbohydrates (low-quality refined grains and simple sugars, such as white bread, pasta, rice, cookies/biscuits); or usual diet.

Relative to all comparison diets combined, red meat consumption had no differential effects on total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, apolipoproteins A1 and B, or blood pressure, but resulted in lesser decreases in triglyceride concentrations.

However, in analyses stratified by type of comparison diet, substituting red meat with high-quality plant foods (i.e. soya, nuts, and legumes), but not with fish or low-quality carbohydrates, led to more favourable changes in total cholesterol and LDL-C concentrations.

These findings underscore the importance of considering the comparison diet interventions as a determinant of the relative effects of red meat on CVD risk factors.

Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ambika Satija, et al (2019) Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Red Meat Consumption in Comparison With Various Comparison Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Circulation;139:1828–1845