Wagyu Beef is quickly gaining popularity amongst beef lovers in Singapore and around the globe because of its unsurpassed marbling and tenderness. When I first heard of this marbled beef, my Doctor half thought "Oh oh! So much fat! Its got to be bad for your heart!" while my Foodie half rebutted "Hey, that's got to be the shiokest, tenderest beef steak!". Imagine my joy when I read on the Internet that Wagyu was also higher in monounsaturated fats than normal beef and that it was healthy! As you know, monosaturated fats eg olive oil (which melts at a lower temperature) are better for your heart then saturated fats, eg butter.
My initial reaction was: "Rejoice! Rejoice! Now I can have my beef steak AND lower my cholesterol levels at the same time!"
But the cynic in me just could not accept this without reservations. So I began to do some research. Sad to say that the medical community has not really gotten wind of the fact that Wagyu beef is lower in monosaturated fats yet (maybe they are all too busy avoiding beef and staying healthy) so a casual search of the usual medical sites revealed no official position on Wagyu Beef.
When you look at the information from Wagyu Beef Suppliers, they will tell you that Wagyu is high in monounsaturated fats and with the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats of 2:1.(1) Then they go on to tell how a diet high in monounsaturated fats can lower your bad cholesterol levels. Although it seem to be the logical conclusion, one needs to be careful to and look at the whole picture before starting to eat chunks of Wagyu beef thinking that you are doing your heart a favour! Bear in mind that even though there is more monounsaturated fats in Wagyu, there is still that 30% of saturated fats! And since Wagyu is so well marbled, you are taking in a lot more fat than a normal beef steak.
So real question is: "Does eating Wagyu really lead to lower cholesterol levels, compared to eating normal Beef?". As far as I can tell, there is not enough data (available to me) to form a conclusion. I did managed to find one article (2) that addresses this issue, but it was a research paper funded by a beef supplier AND it was only done in a small population of people, so the results have to be taken with a grain of salt.
In this experiment, they had 2 groups of people with high cholesterol levels and they fed one group with lean Wagyu beef (lean but still higher in monounsaturated fats) and another group with normal US choice beef. They measured their cholesterol levels before and after 6 weeks of eating the beef. At the end of the trial, one of the conclusions was that there was no difference in the cholesterol levels of the group eating lean Wagyu compared with the group eating normal beef.(2) So it appears that Wagyu may not confer the benefits of lowering cholesterol compared to normal beef as assumed.
Even if the Wagyu does really lower cholesterol levels, there are still other ill effects of red meat that needs to be considered. There is some evidence that high consumption of red meats can lead to colon cancer. (3) Eating too much fat will also lead to obesity and consequently cause other health problems.
Wagyu beef suppliers would like you to assume that Wagyu is healthy because it contains more monounsaturated fats than normal beef. At this point in time, it is only an assumption and has yet to be proven. If you are suffering from high cholesterol, it is still better for you to eat fish (eg, Salmon, mackeral, sardines) which is high in Omega 3 fatty acids (3) rather then a Wagyu Steak. There is just not enough evidence to advise people to eat more Wagyu beef in order to lower cholesterol levels. Oh how I wish there was! That would be a piece of dietary advise that would be easy for a lot of people to swallow.
To read my other blog on Wagyu Beef, please click here
1. Link to Wagyu article
2. Increased Beef Consumption Increases Apolipoprotein A-I but Not Serum Cholesterol of Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Men with Different Levels of Habitual Beef Intake
3. Fats and Cholesterol - The Good, The Bad, and The Healthy Diet