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Side Effects of Eating Chicken, Says Science

This popular lean protein in your diet could be the reason for some unexpected issues.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Chicken is one of the most versatile forms of high-quality protein, which is why it's commonly found in so many recipes. From being baked in the oven to grilled and put on top of a salad or in a sandwich, eating chicken can be a healthy (and versatile) protein choice. But, at the same time, it can be fried or layered with cheese and not so healthy, too.

Even though the preparation is crucial to making the healthiest choices, it's possible your chicken could be sabotaged before it even makes its way into your kitchen or onto your plate.

According to recent science, there are some secret side effects of eating this popular meat that you may not realize. Read on to learn more about the impacts of eating chicken, and for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

It may increase your cholesterol levels.

chicken in pan

A small study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that white meat chicken increased the levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol in the same way that red meat does. This can also have a direct impact on your risk of heart disease.

According to Harvard Health, though, there were a number of limitations to this study: "The size of the study, 113 participants, was small; the duration was short (only 16 weeks); and there was a relatively high participant dropout rate."

So, even though the study is valid and reputable, there definitely needs to be more research done on the topic.

The majority of retail chicken breast is contaminated with bacteria.

chicken breast

Yes, you read that right. You could be eating chicken that's contaminated with bacteria. 97% of the chicken breasts tested by Consumer Reports harbored bacteria—and it's even possible that this bacteria is making you sick. The 2014 study analyzed more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased from grocery stores all over the United States. And the bacteria that was found in the majority of the chicken breasts was troubling, to say the least.

"More than half of the samples contained fecal contaminants. And about half of them harbored at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more commonly prescribed antibiotics," according to Consumer Reports. It's definitely something to be aware of next time you head to the poultry section of the grocery store.

It can lead to weight gain.

chicken parmesan

A study from Loma Linda University uncovered that there's a correlation between diet type and weight, specifically finding that vegetarians have a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat-eaters do. The participants in the study that followed a non-vegetarian diet ended up consuming higher amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, arachidonic, and docosahexaenoic fatty acids and lower amounts of plant proteins, fiber, beta carotene, and magnesium compared to those following a vegetarian diet.

While this study doesn't specifically mention chicken, there are many chicken dishes higher in saturated fat like fried chicken and chicken parmesan among others, that can, when eaten over time, lead to weight gain.

However, it's important to note that eating chicken by itself is not bad for you, as it can be a great source of lean protein, but make sure you are limiting the fat you're eating with it. Not to mention, pairing your chicken with lots of fiber-rich foods, like whole grains and veggies, is good for your body's health as well.

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Fried Chicken

Chicken with antibiotics has been linked to UTIs.

chicken salad

Retail chicken with a particular strain of E. coli has been shown to lead to a wide range of infections, including UTIs, according to a study published in the American Society for Microbiology's journal mBio. The longitudinal study was one year long, during which the researchers analyzed retail chicken, turkey, and pork purchased from major grocery chains.

"The team found E.coli in nearly 80% of the 2,452 meat samples and in 72% of the positive urine and blood cultures from patients", according to Science Daily. It was this same strain of E.coli that was also found to be causing UTIs.

So, it's important to look for chicken "raised without antibiotics" in the meat section to ensure you don't run any risks of developing diseases.

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Rachel Linder
Rachel is an Associate Editor responsible for compiling the daily Eat This, Not That! newsletter, making TikTok and YouTube videos for the brand, writing articles for the site, creating original graphics and providing direct assistance to the editors when needed. Read more about Rachel
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