Dark meat for a better heart?

Drumsticks arent usually considered one of the healthier choices at the dinner table. But a new study suggests that dark meat may be a dark horse in the fight against heart disease.

Dark meat has more fat and calories than white meat. But those chicken and turkey thighs, legs, and wings could also have a potentially helpful nutrient: taurine.

The study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, revealed that taurine, naturally found in the dark meat of poultry and also in some fish and shellfish, may actually protect women with high cholesterol against coronary heart disease.

Researchers linked higher taurine intake to a 60 percent lower risk of developing or dying from heart disease among the women with high total cholesterol levels. Among women with low cholesterol levels, however, taurine failed to have the same beneficial effect.

It is an interesting possibility. If these findings are confirmed, one day we might be able to suggest that someone with high cholesterol eat more poultry, specifically dark meat, says lead researcher Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, in a press release from New York University Langone Medical Center, where the research was conducted.

Dr. Chen, an associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Medicine, says more research is needed to expand this recommendation to men, and even women of all races. This particular study looked at women only, the majority of whom were Caucasian.

A third of American adults 20 and older have high cholesterol, according to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A person whose total cholesterol is 240mg/dL or higher has more than double the risk for heart disease than someones whose level is below 200, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and men in the United States.

Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet that includes unsaturated fats found in foods such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts can protect the heart. Perhaps chicken wings (baked, not fried) will make it to the list one day.

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