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Lean beef can be part of a heart healthy diet

By Doug Rich and Kylene Scott

HEART HEALTHY—A heart healthy diet can include lean beef, according to a recently released study. Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State Univesity, gave a presentation on the BOLD diet during the Cattle Industry Convention held in Nashville, Tn., on Feb. 2. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

Beef is good for you. Most of us knew this already but now there is scientific fact to back us up.

During the Federation Division forum at the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 2, Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, gave a presentation on BOLD, which is an acronym for Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet. The BOLD study proves that lean beef not only tastes great but it also plays an important role in a heart-healthy diet.

"People can follow a diet that includes lean beef and still reduce blood cholesterol levels," Kris-Etherton said. "Cattlemen are very excited about this study. I think for a long time beef has taken a bad rap for all sorts of reasons, and now something good is coming out of the research showing that lean beef can be part of a heart healthy diet."

In 2007 the beef checkoff started a human clinical research trial to compare the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet to a higher-beef version of the DASH diet. DASH is considered the gold standard for heart-health diets.

Participants in the study had a 10 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol compared to baseline in two different beef diets. Adult participants in the study had moderately elevated cholesterol levels. According to the beef checkoff the BOLD study evaluated the effects of the BOLD diet on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and other emerging cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Kris-Etherton said the reason for the lower cholesterol levels was a protein effect.

"There are some studies out there showing that a diet a little bit higher in protein and the studies have been done with plant protein but the protein lowers blood pressure," Kris-Etherton said. "It might have been the potassium; beef is a source of potassium, but I am not sure about that."

The DASH diet only contains two beef meals per week while the BOLD diet provided an average of 12 lean beef meals per week. Adults in the study consumed four slightly different diets, BOLD, BOLD-Plus, DASH, and Health American Diet as the control for five weeks each. The DASH diet featured vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy with limited red meat and white meat or plant protein as the main protein sources. The BOLD diet is similar to DASH but used 4 ounces of lean beef as the primary protein source. BOLD-Plus is similar to BOLD but contains 5.4 ounces of lean beef daily. Recipes for the beef meals used in the study came the checkoff-funded Health Beef Cookbook.

"The BOLD-Plus is a heart healthy diet," Kris-Etherton said. "It had about 5.5 ounces of lean beef that was included in the diet daily and it elicited the same cholesterol lowering effect as did the BOLD diet, which had 4 ounces of lean beef and the DASH diet that had one ounce of lean beef. But the BOLD-Plus diet was higher in protein that also had a systolic blood pressure, lowering effect."

The goal is to lower cholesterol and to do that Kris-Etherton said we need to lower the amount of saturated fat in our diets. A major source of saturated fat is full-fat dairy products. Kris-Etherton said people should be careful to use skim milk or 1 percent fat dairy products, including lower fat cheese, because the No. 1 source of saturated fat in U.S. diets is cheese.

"We just finished another study with individuals who had criteria for metabolic syndrome," Kris-Etherton said. "It's a condition where three out of five risk factors are elevated and one of the major ones is central obesity, but blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose and HDL is low. We did a study with the diets we used in the BOLD study and it will be interesting to see what happens. I wonder if we are going to see a pretty big blood pressure lowering effect of BOLD-Plus because usually people who have elevated blood pressure are the ones that respond the most."

The BOLD study was published in the January issue of the American Journal of Nutrition.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at


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