What Happened to Chicken?
How many years have we heard that chicken is a better choice than beef because it is lower in saturated fat?
Well it seems that when it comes to chicken things have changed. Studies that track foods to weight gain clearly indicate that meat eaters compared to vegans have higher BMIs (Body Mass Index – an indicator of obesity). When looking specifically at different types of meat, numerous studies indicated that the food most highly connected to elevated BMI was chicken! What happened to chicken? Well for one thing, over the last 30 years chickens have been selectively bred to be intense growers (grow quickly to maturity). Chickens that mature quickly mean improved profits for poultry growers, but the unexpected outcome of selective breeding/feeding is drastic consequences in the nutritional value of chicken.
Today’s chickens have a lot more fat and less nutritional value. A serving of chicken in 1940 had 95 calories and 10 grams of fat, a serving of chicken in 2011 contains 200 calories and 23 grams of fat. The selective breeding has also had an impact of how well the chicken is able to make a very important fat called DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). DHA is an omega-3 fat that is extremely important to brain and eye health for humans. These new breeds of chicken are not able to make DHA in their muscle tissue like old chickens. They are so much lower in DHA that it would take eating 6 current day chickens (about 9000 more calories worth of chicken) to equal the DHA level in one chicken form 1970! Some researchers have theorized that this drastic decrease in omega-3 DHA could be one reason that there has been such a dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s and other mental health disease over the last 20 years.