Sorry chicken lovers. We have some bad news. It turns out that not only is red meat and processed meat linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but chicken is as well.

New research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at data of thousands of people studied over the course of three decades. The findings point to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease on a diet heaviest in red and processed meat, but found that, yes even poultry was associated with an elevated risk of heart disease and death. Fish was not implicated as increasing risk, and the highest risk was associated with processed and red meat. So what to eat?

Prioritize Fruits and Vegetables

Study co-author Linda Van Horn, division chief of nutrition in the department of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, serves as a member of several advisory panels, including one that’s working on revising the federal Dietary Guidelines.

Van Horn says the new findings relied on the “highest quality data available.” In the findings, heart disease risk is reduced when people prioritize eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, along with limiting most meats. The worst risk was linked to processed meat, and the lowest increase in risk was among fish eaters. The research also found that limiting consumption of refined grains (like white rice, white bread, and sugar), fried foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages helped to reduce the risk of heart disease even further.

“When you eat a diet that is rich in processed and refined foods, it collectively contributes to increased risk of disease,“ Dr. Van Horn told  The New York Times, adding that it also “denies you the benefits of the fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant-based proteins that contribute to health.”

Cardiovascular risks are largely influenced by genetics, but diet does play a role. According to another one of the study's authors, Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, it's a major factor in who will and won't get heart disease in their lifetime. Any increased risk even a small one, is undesirable, she says. “I would say that even though it seems to be a small amount of risk, any excess risk for something as major as heart disease and mortality is worth considering."

Yes, Red Meat Is Risky

Last September's research that said eating red and processed meat was not a health risk, has been resoundingly rejected by scientists, doctors, and the entire medical community. The authors had been exposed as having ties to the agriculture industry, and the medical community walked back the news as well as they could. Health experts, including those representing the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, said the study flew in the face of decades of research warning people to eat less meat for the sake of their health.

Even the World Health Organization has classified processed red meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it's highly likely to pose serious health risks. Other substances classed as Group 1 carcinogens include asbestos, radium, and tobacco.

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