Monday, October 5, 2009

Is Deer Meat High in Cholesterol?

Dear Laurie,
My family received a large amount of deer meat as a gift from a friend who is a hunter.  I would like to eat it, but my concern is that I was able to reduce my cholesterol from 250 to 210 over the past few years by reducing my intake of beef and other meats.  If I enjoy venison this winter, will my cholesterol level go back up again? I really want to avoid taking medication for it.   Drew R.

Dear Drew,

Congratulations on reducing  your blood cholesterol level so well by changing your diet!  My suspicion is that you did more than just eliminate beef on a regular basis: You may also have cut back on other fatty foods, reduced portion sizes, increased fiber intake, and started exercising more.  You probably lost weight as well.  It's usually a combination of dietary changes that leads to such a significant change in cholesterol level.  It's also significant, as you probably know, what the level of your LDL and HDL cholesterol is, too.

If you would not consider eating beef again, you might not want to consider eating venison either: While lower in fat than beef, it is also higher in cholesterol by about 25%.  The lower fat content may make it a safer option than beef, but if your tendency is toward higher serum cholesterol you'll want to proceed with caution.
Be sure the portions are small (3-4 ounces) and that you eat leaner cuts of the meat.  If it were me, I'd try having it once a week and have my blood cholesterol level checked in about six weeks.  By then you should be able to see a difference if one will occur.  If your cholesterol goes up, you'll have to back off on the deer meat, and if not you can continue to enjoy small amounts throughout the winter.

In time, you may become more comfortable enjoying certain foods on occasion, which you have been used to avoiding over the past few years.  It's the combination of all the lifestyle changes I'm sure you have made that reduced your cholesterol level and as long as you keep up most of them on a regular basis you should continue to keep your cholesterol under good control.


  1. I think there is both side of this are some effect of this meal.
    The good: This food is low in Sodium. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper and Selenium, and a very good source of Riboflavin, Niacin and Vitamin B12.

    The bad: This food is very high in Cholesterol.


  2. This very interesting subject!! Thank you!!

  3. Wow! I've just been reading numerous studies and reports stating that venison is not only considerably LOWER in cholesterol than beef, but lower than chicken and similar to turkey. What gives? Why such dramatic differences of opinion? The studies are there. Why would there be two different opinions?
    Now I'm confused.
    Please do some more research and let us know. Perhaps more recent studies have shed more light on this subject.
    Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comment! When different meats are compared for fat and cholesterol content you see a wide range of reporting based on the cuts of meat. For instance, the Pork Board's campaign that pork is "the other white meat" emphasizes how lean some cuts are. But sausage and bacon still top the chart for fat and cholesterol! Likewise, depending on who is providing the data, when different cuts of meat are compared there can be different results. I'm sure some cuts of beef are more lean than a chicken thigh with the skin left on, particularly if the chicken is fried!

  4. My husband is a hunter. Our primary meat is venison. It has been for over 10 years. He processes the meat himself. He has recently been told he has high cholesterol. There are many reports with conflicting statics. Hunting season a few months away. We would like to know if he should"stock the freezer" or not. We use burger, steaks,roasts,etc just like beef. All these years we thought we were eating healthier. No hormones or anything. Have we been fooling ourselves?

  5. Hi Joy,
    Cholesterol content isn't the only thing to consider; while deer meat may have more cholesterol than beef it is lower in fat. Most experts recommend a lower fat diet when battling high cholesterol. Your husband may also benefit from losing weight, if he is overweight, and from choosing smaller portions of animal products.
    I can appreciate the idea that slaughtering your own catch is healthier. It just doesn't mean "eat all you want", particularly if he has identified an issue with high cholesterol. Overall, it sounds like the deer meat is a better choice than beef for your husband; just consider the option of reducing portions as well.