Most Americans take it for granted that if they want to lower their risk of heart disease they should switch from eating red meat to eating chicken. As a result, US and world-wide poultry consumption has tripled since 1980 and surpassed beef consumption.
The switch from beef and pork to chicken has been driven in large part by widespread recommendations to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol.
For example the American Heart Association (AHA) (in its typically misguided) way says:
In general, red meats (beef, pork and lamb) have more cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins such as beans. Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse. Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat.
Instead of listing any facts or studies relevant to your cardiovascular health the AHA choses to repeat the meaningless first sentence again in the last sentence (beef, pork and lamb have more cholesterol and saturated fat than chicken, fish and… beans becomes chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat.)
At LIvestrong the claim is repeated that by choosing skinless chicken breasts over red meat your bad cholesterol (and risk of heart disease) will be lowered. Furthermore, Livestrong repeats the unsubstantiated trope that you will better manage your weight by eating low fat food.
A chicken breast is relatively low in saturated fat compared to many protein alternatives, especially when the skin is removed. By substituting chicken for higher-fat cuts of meat, you will lower your risk of developing heart disease by reducing your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Eating lower-fat alternatives will also help you maintain a healthy weight. Grilling, broiling and baking are great cooking methods to keep the fat content at its lowest.
When we carefully examine the evidence, however, there is no scientific support for either of these claims-switching to chicken from beef has never been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, more recent studies show the switch won’t improve biomarkers that predict long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.
And switching to chicken from beef does not improve weight management.
Changes in the fasting lipid profile were not significantly different with beef consumption compared with those with poultry and/or fish consumption. Inclusion of lean beef in the diet increases the variety of available food choices, which may improve long-term adherence with dietary recommendations for lipid management.
support that the consumption of ≥0.5 compared with <0.5 servings of total red meat/d does not influence blood lipids, lipoproteins, and/or blood pressures, which are clinically relevant CVD risk factors. These results are generalizable across a variety of populations, dietary patterns, and types of red meat.
Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat
Once again I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but it bears repeating- the concept that switching from a high fat food item to a low fat item will cause weight loss is totally false.
There are actually numerous studies showing that there is no difference between chicken and beef consumption on weight or body fat:
1. Melanson et al. conducted a 12-week randomised, controlled trial of overweight women on an energy restricted diet with either lean beef or chicken as the major protein source along with moderate exercise. There was no difference in weight loss or % body fat or blood lipid profiles between the patients on the beef or chicken diet.
2., Mahon et al. compared consumption of lean beef or chicken as the primary protein source over 12 weeks in a hypocaloric diet in 61 obese females. There was no difference between the chicken or beef eaters in the amount of weight loss, fat loss or drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Finally, here’s a 2014 RCT study of 49 obese adults who were randomly assigned to consume up to 1 kg/week of pork, chicken or beef, in an otherwise unrestricted diet for three months, followed by two further three month periods consuming each of the alternative meat options.
There was no difference in BMI or any other marker of adiposity between consumption of pork, beef and chicken diets. Similarly there were no differences in energy or nutrient intakes between diets
Vegetarians Uniformly Condemn Chickens As Unhealthy
It’s interesting that a Google search for the healthiness of chicken versus beef yields the standard dietary dogma from mainstream nutritional sources like the AHA or the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics but also a large number of sites that want to convince you of how unhealthy chicken is.
These sites are vegan or vegetarian sites such as plantbasednews.org which lists these six “shocking” reasons why you should stop eating chicken:
At least one of the reasons is clearly documented:
Several of the reasons are more ethical/moral in nature and I leave it up to my readers to decide how important these are to them.
-“The poultry industry has a devastating impact on the environment” related to pollution from factory farms.
-“chickens are intelligent animals”
-“The slaughter of birds is horrifying”
The Guardian.com has a good article on the horror of factory farm chicken raising entitled “If consumers knew how farmed chickens were raised they might never eat their meat again” which I recommend to those who are not already familiar with the conditions in which 99.9% of broilers are raised.
One “shocking reason” listed by plantbasednews appears untrue-“chickens are stuffed with cancer-causing arsenic” The FDA in 2017 indicates that the animal drug which raised arsenic levels in chicken livers (3-Nitro) had been withdrawn from the market.
Bottom Line-No Universal Health Reason To Switch From Red Meat To Chicken
There are many other factors which go into the overall effect of beef and chicken on our bodies. For one thing, how the meat is prepared and what accompanies it will have a much greater influence on health than whether it is chicken or red meat.
It’s time to rid America of the idea that chicken is healthier than beef-it is not and has never been supported by good scientific studies.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease don’t assume you can only eat skinless chicken breasts as meat for the rest of your life.
The change from beef to chicken definitely won’t help you lose weight.
And it won’t reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Beef in moderation can definitely be part of a heart healthy diet and a weight loss diet. Just be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables, nuts, fresh fruit, legumes, and fish along with your red meat. and minimize processed foods, added sugars and empty carbs.
For example, in May of 2016, 96-year-old Dr. Henry Heimlich, widely credited as the inventor of the eponymous abdominal thrust procedure, made headlines around the world when he reportedly performed it on a fellow retirement home resident in Cincinnati.
Surprisingly, despite the widespread belief that the Heimlich maneuver is the scientifically-affirmed treatment of choice for choking victims, there is only anecdotal evidence for its effectiveness as well as its dangers and there is no scientific consensus on the best approach to a person who is choking or has foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO).
The Origins of The Heimlich maneuver
In 1972, Heimlich writes in his autobiography “Heimlich’s Maneuvers“, he came across a NY Times article which revealed that the sixth leading cause of accidental deaths in the
US was choking on a foreign body, usually food ,and that 3900 individuals were dying from foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO) a year.
The typical scenario for these deaths was first described in a 1963 JAMA report on 9 patients who suddenly collapsed at a dinner table and were subsequently pronounced dead on arrival to the emergency room. Death had been attributed to coronary artery disease but at autopsy these victims were found to have food obstructing their airways (4 by steak, 2 by beef, one by ham and one by kippered herring). The author termed these sudden deaths in resturants “The Cafe’ Coronary.”
In 1972 there was no consensus on how to treat victims of the Cafe’ Coronary and Heimlich noted that the three options were
Inserting a large-caliber hypodermic needle into the trachea or performing a tracheotomy
Utilizing an instrument designed to remove the object from the throat
Slapping choking victims on the back.
Noting the risks of option one, the impracticality of option two and the lack of scientific evidence to support option 3, Heimlich pondered a better approach, one that would utilize the residual air in the victim’s lungs to forcefully expel the lethal food bolus “like the cork from a Champagne bottle.”
Standing behind the victim the rescuer puts both arms around him just above the belt line, allowing head, arms and upper torso to hang forward. Then, grasping his own right wrist with his left hand, the rescuer rapidly and strongly presses into the victim’ abdomen, forcing the diaphragm upward, compressing the lungs and expelling the obstructing bolus
Heimlich states in the 1974 article that the procedure was adapted from “experimental work “with four 38-pound beagles.
Although admitting that these results might not be duplicated in humans, he indicates that “there is certainly no risk in recommending that the procedure be tried in actual cafe’ coronary emergencies.”
“then, as experiences are reported, the method can be evaluated.”
Shockingly, Heimlich, in this article (subsequently picked up and promoted by the lay press) proposed to all Americans that they begin an experiment on helpless choking victims to see if his newly developed idea was of any benefit.
He requests in the last lines of this monumental communication that Americans help him gather information from the experiment.
“Should you use, or learn of anyone else using, the Heimlich method by the way, please report the results either to EM or me.”
Flimsy Experimental Basis For Heimlich
Four 38 pound beagles-The experimental work supporting an unsupervised, unregulated national experiment on choking victims!
Below is the sum total of the description Heimlich provides for his experiments:
After being given an intravenous anesthetic, each dog was “strangled” with a size 32 cuffed endotracheal tube inserted into the larynx. After the cuff was distended to create total obstruction of the trachea, the animal went into immediate respiratory distress as evidenced by spasmodic, paradoxical respiratory movements of the chest and diaphragm. At this point, with a sudden thrust. I pressed the palm of my hand deeply and firmly into the abdomen of the animal a short distance below the rib cage, thereby pushing upward on the diaphragm. The endotracheal tube popped out of the trachea and, after several labored respirations, the animal began to breathe normally. This procedure was even more effective when the other hand maintained constant pressure on the lower abdomen directing almost all the pressure toward the diaphragm.
We repeated the experiment more than 20 times on each animal with the same excellent results When a bolus of raw hamburger was substituted for the endotracheal tube, it, too, was ejected by the same procedure, always after one or two compressions.
This “experimental work” seems to have been sloppily done and would not have passed muster through a legitimate current day peer-reviewed scientific journal. It seems more like the observations of an 18th century scientist than a 20th century one.
Here are a few of the red flags I see that suggest either these experiments weren’t really done or that they need to be repeated with better documentation or by an investigator who is unbiased as to the outcome.
The beagles are all exactly the same size
There are no measurements recorded. Of any kind.
Important data was not recorded: What anesthetic was utilized? What was the position of the animals? How long between experiments?. How many “more than 20 times” were the animals choked.? How big was the hamburger bolus?
Flimsy Experimental Work Embellished And Republished
A year later Heimlich was apparently emboldened by reports of the successful application of his now namesake maneuver and his “special communication” ,published in JAMA, in October of 1975 reiterated his previous publication with a near identical description of the experiments on the four 38 pound beagles.
He added some more details to these experiments. For example, we learn the beagles were anesthetized, with thiamyial sodium given intravenously.
And he embellishes the method for choking the dogs
A cuffed, No. 32 endotracheal tube, the lumen plugged by a rubber stopper, was inserted under direct vision through the mouth into the larynx. The cuff was distended with 3 to 4 ml of air, causing total obstruction of the trachea, simulating a bolus of food caught in the human larynx. The animal immediately went into respiratory distress, as evidenced by spasmodic paradoxical respiratory move- ments of the chest and diaphragm.
At first, the rib cage was manually compressed in an attempt to increase the intrapulmonary pressure and expel the bolus. This procedure was unsuccessful. It was later realized that the compressibility of the lungs by this technique was inadequate due to the rigidity of the chest wall. Furthermore, any increase in intrapleural pressure would be dissipated by depressing the diaphragm.
Apparently realizing that he needed to provide some evidence that his abdominal thrusts were superior to chest compression He added to his experimental description the following:
At first, the rib cage was manually compressed in an attempt to increase the intrapulmonary pressure and expel the bolus. This procedure was unsuccessful.
And adds a gratuitous explanation for the failure of the chest compression:
It was later realized that the compressibility of the lungs by this technique was inadequate due to the rigidity of the chest wall. Furthermore, any increase in intrapleural pressure would be dissipated by depressing the diaphragm.
Subsequently, I pressed the palm of my hand deeply and firmly upward into the abdomen of the animal a short dis- tance below the rib cage, thereby pushing against the dia- phragm. The endotracheal tube (bolus) popped out of the trachea.
Interestingly, there is no published, peer-reviewed paper verifying the research that Heimlich claims to have done in developing this procedure. And according to his son, Peter M. Heimlich, his father’s archives at a University of Cincinnati medical library include no documentation of the research on the beagles.
The Chest Thrust (Guildner Maneuver): A Superior Approach?
Two years later, Charles W. Guildner, an Everett, Washington anesthesiologist and American Heart Association (AHA) consultant, published the results of experiments he performed on six human volunteers which concluded that chest thrusts were superior to abdominal thrusts in generating air flow out of the trachea and presumably more effective at clearing foreign bodies obstructing the airway of choking victims. Guildner’s results are supported by a study by Audun Langhelle of Oslo, Norway, published in 2000 by the journal Resuscitation.
Langhelle compared peak airway pressure with standard chest compressions versus Heimlich maneuvers done by emergency physicians in cadavers with simulated complete airway obstruction in a randomized crossover design. Mean peak airway pressure was significantly lower with the Heimlich maneuver than with the chest compressions.
Heimlich Markets and Bullies To Gain Prominence For His Maneuver
Prior to 1976, the guidelines of the AHA and the American Red Cross (ARC) recommended back blows as the best treatment for responding to a conscious choking victim. After a 1976 National Academy of Science conference on emergency airway management (at which Heimlich was an invited participant), both organizations adopted the following recommendations:
Back blows (4)
Manual thrust (4)
If ineffective repeat back blows and manual thrusts until they are effective or until the victim becomes unresponsive.
For Heimlich, having his maneuver incorporated in US first aid guideliness only two years after he introduced it wasn’t enough. He then embarked on a ten-year media campaign he called “back blows are death blows” in which he accused the AHA and ARC of putting lives at risk because they continued to recommend that treatment.
In 1986, with support from Dr. C. Everett Koop, U.S. Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan, Heimlich got his way. The AHA removed backblows from its guidelines and endorsed the Heimlich maneuver as the sole approach to the choking victim. The ARC followed suit.
Heimlich’s typical rhetoric on this issue can be found in a July, 1988 NY Times editorial where he extensively quotes Koop’s condemnation of back blows and states:
“The organizations and journals responsible for disseminating this medical error should advise Americans that the back slap, taught for more than a decade as a treatment for choking, causes death.”
Review Of The Literature Finds Abdominal Thrusts and Chest Compressions Equivalent
In 2005, the American Red Cross, after reviewing the scientific literature concluded that back blows, abdominal thrusts, and chest thrusts were equally effective for FBAO.
As a result, the ARC’s 2005 Guidelines for Emergency Care and Education essentially returned to their 1976-1985 recommndation to treat conscious, choking children and adults, now called “the five and five”: first perform 5 back blows; if that fails to remove the obstruction, proceed with 5 abdominal thrusts. If necessary, repeat the cycle.”
Those recommendations “horrify” Heimlich. “There has never been any research saying the back slap saves lives,” he said. “We know the Heimlich maneuver works. So it comes down to a matter of life or death.”
Richard Bradley, MD writing in defense of this change on the Red Cross blog in 2013 wrote:
A review of the scientific literature suggested that back blows, abdominal thrusts and chest compressions are equally effective. Additionally, the use of more than one method can be more effective to dislodge an object. These findings are consistent with those of international resuscitation societies.
The Red Cross certainly isn’t discounting the use of abdominal thrusts. But we include back blows, abdominal thrusts and chest compressions in our training because there is no clear scientific evidence to say that one technique is more effective than the others when treating a choking victim.
. “Additionally, the use of more than one method can be more effective to dislodge an object. These findings are consistent with those of international resuscitation societies.”
Chest thrusts, back blows/slaps, or abdominal thrusts are effective for relieving FBAO (Foreign Body Airway Obstruction) in conscious adults and children >1 year of age, although injuries have been reported with the abdominal thrust. There is insufficient evidence to determine which should be used first. These techniques should be applied in rapid sequence until the obstruction is relieved; more than one technique may be needed. Unconscious victims should receive CPR. The finger sweep should be used in the unconscious patient with an obstructed airway only if solid material is visible in the airway. There is insufficient evidence for a treatment recommendation for an obese or pregnant patient with FBAO.
In 2010, the AHA guidelines revisited foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO) and gave the abdominal thrust priority again “for simplicity in training.”:
Although chest thrusts, back slaps, and abdominal thrusts are feasible and effective for relieving severe FBAO in conscious (responsive) adults and children ≥1 year of age, for simplicity in training it is recommended that abdominal thrusts be applied in rapid sequence until the obstruction is relieved. If abdominal thrusts are not effective, the rescuer may consider chest thrusts. It is important to note that abdominal thrusts are not recommended for infants <1 year of age because thrusts may cause injuries.
“For adults, either conscious or unconscious, with obstructed airway, does any specific resuscitation techniques compared to currently recommended techniques, lead to different outcomes?”
This review found only two studies provided significant evidence to support recommendations
one fair quality LOE 3b study suggests that peak airway pressures developed by chest compressions are significantly higher than the pressure from abdominal thrusts
2. one poor quality LOE 4 study suggests that for conscious adults with an obstructed airway, abdominal thrusts generate higher peak airway pressures when delivered when the victim is supine as compared to seated and that back blows do not generate any significant change in airway pressure.
The final conclusion of this review:
Clearly, there is a dearth of evidence to support basic life support treatment guidelines for this important problem.
Choking Treatment Recommendation in Australia/New Zealand/UK
In the resuscitation guidelines of medical organizations in Australia and New Zealand, the Heimlich maneuver is warned against as unproven and to be avoided due to “life-threatening complications” associated with its use. Instead, first aid authorities in those countries recommend first performing a series of backblows followed by, if necessary, a series of chest thrusts, the treatment studied by Guildner (1976) and Langhelle (2000).
Give back blows (up to 5). Support the chest with one hand and lean the victim well forwards so that when the obstructing object is dislodged it comes out of the mouth rather than goes further down the airway.Give five sharp blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand
Give abdominal thrusts.
Heimlich Maneuver: Time For A Reconsideration
Thus, it is clear the Heimlich maneuver was recommended by Henry Heimlich for general usage without any human clinical studies to support its safety and efficacy. With Heimlich’s aggressive promoting of the technique it became the recommended way to treat choking conscious individuals despite experimental evidence showing it inferior to chest thrusts and no controlled human trials to support its safety and effectiveness.
Australia and New Zealand, countries free of Heimlich’s influence, do not recommend the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims.
It is entirely possible that chest thrusts are a safer and more effective maneuver for removing foreign bodies from choking victims. Since Dr. Heimlich died in December, 2016 perhaps the organizations that teach CPR can reevaluate their recommendations in this area without fear of public shaming or retribution.
Given the uncertainty in the treatment of choking victims and the number of deaths a national trial comparing chest thrusts versus abdominal thrusts as the initial procedure should be initiated as soon as possible.
N.B. In Part Two of this analysis of the Heimlich maneuver we will review the evidence of the harm the Heimlich maneuvers have done over the years.