Dark Chicken May Benefit Heart

Taurine packed dark meat found in poultry offers cholesterol benefit to women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Got high cholesterol? Consider grabbing a drumstick. Those with high cholesterol may receive an added benefit from eating chicken or turkey -- specifically from consuming a nutrient in dark meat.

In women with high cholesterol, taurine, a naturally-occurring nutrient found in the dark meat of chicken or turkey and some fish, has been found to help protect from coronary artery disease.

"Choose dark meat over white meat poultry."

Yu Chen, lead researcher and an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University School of Medicine, part of NYU Langone Medical Center, called the finding "an interesting possibility." If the discovery is confirmed, she noted that doctors may some day be able to suggest that patients with high cholesterol eat more dark meat poultry or take supplements containing the nutrient.

Researchers utilized data and samples from the NYU Women's Health Study, which enrolled more than 14,000 women ages 34 to 65 between 1985 and 1991 at a breast cancer screening center. About 80 percent of the women were Caucasian.

During the study investigators measured levels of taurine in serum samples collected in 1985. This was before 223 of the study participants developed or died as a result of coronary artery disease during study follow up between 1986 and 2006.

Those samples were then compared to taurine levels in serum samples collected at the same time for 223 participants without a history of heart disease.

They found that taurine did not protect from coronary artery disease overall, but in women with high cholesterol those with high levels of serum taurine were 60 percent less likely to die from coronary artery disease during the study as compared to women with lower levels. Added protection also was not found in women with low cholesterol levels.

“Our findings were very interesting. Taurine, at least in its natural form, does seem to have a significant protective effect in women with high cholesterol,” Chen said.

Researchers did not determine whether synthetic taurine, which may be added to energy drinks or supplements, would have the same benefit. They suggested additional research was needed to investigate the health effects of such man-made products.

The study, funded by the American Heart Association, was recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

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Review Date: 
March 2, 2012
Last Updated:
March 4, 2012