Janice Stanger, PhD

Janice Stanger, PhD

Posted November 23, 2014

Published in Health

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Five Dangers of Eating Poultry

Read More: chicken, dangers of poultry, plant-based diet, Thanksgiving, turkey, whole foods

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Chicken and Turkey Are Health Risks All Year Long

Turkeys are the routine centerpiece of many holiday meals, while chickens are a common "main course" for everyday dinners. Yet when you look closely at poultry, the health dangers may surprise you, and guide you to make life-affirming choices instead. Here are five hazards you should know about if you think that chicken and turkey are "health foods."


Chicken and turkey are portrayed as smart choices if you are trying to lose weight. Reality proves this is false advertising. A study in Europe followed 373,803 participants for an average of five years to see what foods were linked to weight gain over time. The strongest association was found for poultry.

The researchers point out that all meat is calorie-dense. According to the USDA, three ounces of light meat, roasted chicken (one "serving") contains 147 calories, while an equivalent amount of light meat, roasted turkey has 125 calories.chicken 1 resized smaller.jpg This might not sound like much, until you realize that a "serving" is about the size of a deck of cards, while your stomach is about the size of a liter bottle. How many poultry servings would it take to fill that bottle? Lots of calories, and with zero associated fiber in the birds to make you feel full.

If you want to stop or reverse weight gain, try a whole foods, animal-free diet. Numerous studies consistently show that people who choose a plant-based lifestyle are leaner than those who eat animal foods, including poultry.


Several studies indicate that eating poultry and exposure to chickens and turkey over prolonged periods of time raise the risk of various kinds of cancer.

  • A study in Shanghai and another in the US found eating more poultry boosted breast cancer risk. In the American study, Caucasian women who ate the most poultry had a 42% high likelihood of developing breast cancer.
  • A European study of more than 477,000 people found that each additional 1.76 ounces of poultry eaten per day raised pancreatic cancer risk by 72%.

Researchers have tested the idea that viruses in chickens and turkeys that cause cancer may infect people, greatly increasing cancer likelihood. The easiest way to study this is in poultry workers, who have been found to have alarmingly higher incidence of liver, pancreatic, and brain cancer. Those who grow up on a poultry farm have an especially high incidence of blood cancers.

Does this mean that if you are not in one of these groups, you don't have to worry?

Click here to read more about the health dangers of eating poultry