Dark Meat or White Meat?

That is the question Diet Blog is pondering. Check out what they’ve turned up:
Dark Meats
Dark meats simply have more myoglobin proteins, the magic stuff that ships oxygen to the muscle cells.


Dark meats must use myoglobins as they transfer oxygen more efficiently to the muscles than glycogen. Muscles used more frequently, get to be dark. This is why non-flying poultry drumsticks are dark meat, while breast meat is white.

When dark meat is cooked it turns the myoglobins to metmyoglobins, which is brown/gray. Metmyoglobins are very high in iron (albeit there is not that much in dark meat in the first place).

White Meat
White meat gets the 'juice' through glycogen. Glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose, an animal starch. Animal starch is stored primarily in the liver and broken down into glucose when needed by the white muscle.

Nutritional Comparison
Dark meats tend to contain more zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12, amino acids, iron than white meat. Dark beef meat contains about 11 times more zinc than tuna, and about 3 times as much iron than raw spinach. Chicken dark meat contain vitamins A, K, B6, B12, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, minerals as selenium, phosphorus and zinc.

Even the fats in most of the dark meats have healthy parts. They contain Omega-3, and Omega-6 fatty acids, and other ‘healthy’ fats.

It is the saturated fat content which lowers the true quality of dark meat.
Dr. Fuhrman pretty much just lumps white meat and dark meat together. Here’s why:
Chicken has about the same amount of cholesterol as beef, and the production of those potent cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are even more concentrated in grilled chicken than in beef.1 Another recent study from New Zealand that investigated heterocyclic amines in meat, fish, and chicken found the greatest contributor of HCAs to cancer risk was chicken.2 Likewise, studies indicated that chicken is almost as dangerous as red meat for the heart. Regarding cholesterol, there is no advantage to eating lean white instead of lean red meat.3
Personally, the only differentiation I do is between meat and fish. What about you?
1. Sinha, R., N. Rothman, E.D. Brown, et al. 1995. High concentration of the carcinogens 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo-[4,5] pyridine (PhIP) occur in chicken but are dependent on the cooking method. Cancer Res. 55 (20):4516-19.

2. Thomson, B. 1999. Heterocyclic amine levels in cooked meat and the implication for New Zealanders. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 8 (3):201-06.

3. Davidson, M.H., D. Hunninghake, K.C. Maki, et al. 1999. Comparison of the effects of lean red meat vs. lean white meat on serum lipid levels among free-living person with hypercholesterolemia: a long-term, randomized clinical trial. Arch. Intern. Med. 159 (12): 1331-38.
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Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
kelly - June 25, 2009 8:17 PM

Thank you for maintaining this blog with good information for discussion Dr. Fuhrman! The animal proteins in both red and white meat are equally devastating.

The CHINA STUDY was enough to make Prof. Collin T Campbells to get off meat (he was raised in his family's animal farm and grew up with the idea of changing meat in attempt to make meat cheaper). Prof. Campbells is now a vegetarian. He gets his proteins from kidney beans, legumes, vege and fruits.

I always tell my friends to reduce meat if they can't get off meat. Cheers Doc!

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