A nutrient called taurine found in the dark meat of chicken may provide protection against coronary heart disease (CHD) in women with high cholesterol, according to a study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center. The study evaluated the effects of taurine, a naturally-occurring nutrient found in the dark meat of chicken, turkey, as well as in some fish and shellfish, on CHD (CHD).

“Taurine, at least in its natural form, does seem to have a significant protective effect in women with high cholesterol,” said principal researcher Yu Chen, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Medicine.

Chen and colleagues conducted their study using data and samples from the NYU Women’s Health Study.  The original study enrolled more than 14,000 women, 34 to 65 years of age, between 1985 and 1991.  Upon enrollment, a wide rage of medical, personal, and lifestyle information was recorded and the data and samples continue to be used for a variety of medical studies.

For the taurine study, sponsored by the American Heart Association, the reseachers measured taurine levels in serum samples collected in 1985 before disease occurrence for participants who developed or died from CHD during the study follow up period between 1986-2006.   Researchers then compared those samples to taurine levels in samples collected at the same time from participants who had no history of cardiovascular disease. The comparison revealed serum taurine was not protective of CHD overall.  But among women with high cholesterol, those with high levels of serum taurine were 60 percent less likely to develop or die from CHD in the study.

“If these findings are confirmed, one day we might be able to suggest that someone with high cholesterol eat more poultry, specifically dark meat,” Chen said.