Pollotarianism is a subdivision of vegetarianism.
While vegetarians consume a mostly plant-based diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes; pollotarians follow a predominantly vegetarian diet while allowing the consumption of poultry meat (chicken, turkey, and duck), and avoiding processed meat products, and sweets.
Poultry is a good source of digestible proteins, B-vitamins (in particular thiamine, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid), and minerals, in particular selenium, while being low in carbohydrates (Marangoni et al., 2015).
Compared to red meat (beef and pork), poultry are generally low in saturated fat and cholesterol (Yucel, 2018).
Thanks to advances in science and technology, chicken meat and chicken eggs can be enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) by modifying the concentration of n-3 PUFAs in their feed (Yucel, 2018).
There are many reasons people may choose to follow a pollotarian diet; it could be for health reasons, environmental reasons, or purely because they enjoy the taste of chicken and turkey and would prefer not to limit it in their diet.
In this article we explain (in plain English!) the conclusions of scientific studies that have looked at pollotarianism.
Drawbacks of Pollotarianism
In this section, we will discuss the drawbacks of a pollotarian diet.
It is advised to discuss with your doctor or a dietitian before choosing to follow a pollotarian diet.
Possible Nutrient Deficiencies
Although being a great source of easily absorbed protein, and some essential micronutrients, poultry meat is generally not a good source of iron, vitamin B12, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids (if not enriched in their feed).
As these nutrients are generally lacking in a vegetarian diet too, it is important to be aware of these lacking nutrients when following a pollotarian diet, and to ensure that you are following a balanced, varied, healthful diet, while monitoring for deficiencies, and supplementing where necessary.
Consuming improperly cooked chicken meat could lead to food poisoning.
The most common pathogenic bacteria found on chicken meat, causing food poisoning are Salmonellae, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Campylobacter (Khalafalla et al., 2015).
When consuming chicken meat, always ensure that it has been properly prepared.
Ensure that the centre of the cooked chicken has reached a temperature of 74°C (165°F), this will ensure that all harmful pathogenic bacteria have been destroyed.
Consumption of poultry may lead to exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
According to WHO (2022) “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”.
When a human is infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, it can be more difficult to treat the infection, resulting in extended hospital stays, and risk of mortality.
Conventionally raised poultry are subjected to antibiotic use, which leads to higher frequencies of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their meat.
Organic and “raised without antibiotics” (RWA) poultry are generally considered to have lower quantities of antibiotic resistant bacteria than conventionally raised poultry, as they purportedly do not use antibiotics in their farming practices (Millman et al., 2013).
Where possible always try to purchase poultry which has not been raised using antibiotics.
Benefits of Pollotarianism
Despite the drawbacks of a pollotarian diet covered in the previous section, increasing evidence suggests that a pollotarian diet may provide you with a range of health benefits.
In the sections that follow we highlight studies that have linked pollotarianism with health benefits such as:
Reduced Risk of Diabetes
A pollotarian diet may keep diabetes at bay.
Poultry are generally low in carbohydrates and are thus an ideal food for blood glucose control.
A 2010 study published in the journal, Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, examined the association between various dietary habits and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Data from ten large prospective studies, consisting of over 190 000 participants were examined.
The authors of the present study found a strong link between adherence to a Mediterranean dietary style and prevention of diabetes, while a Westernized dietary style was strongly linked to diabetes “The dietary patterns that are consistently associated with prevention of type 2 diabetes in the general population are characterized mainly by high consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry, and by decreased consumption of red meat, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and starchy foods” (Esposito et al., 2010).
Protection Against Heart Disease
A pollotarian diet may protect you against heart disease.
A 2010 study conducted by scientists from the Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, at the Harvard School of Public Health, examined the relationship between various dietary protein sources (red meat, poultry, fish, and nuts) and incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), in a population of women.
Data from the Nurses’ Health Study containing more than 80 000 women, aged 30 to 55, with no history of cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease was analysed.
Data had been updated every 4 years, for a period of 26 years.
They reported that participants consuming larger amounts of red meat in their diet, were more prone to develop CHD “higher intakes of red meat, red meat excluding processed meat, and high-fat dairy were significantly associated with elevated risk of CHD” (Bernstein et al., 2010).
On the other hand, participants who consumed protein sources like poultry, fish, and nuts were less likely to develop CHD “Higher intakes of poultry, fish, and nuts were significantly associated with lower risk”.
Based on a model controlling statistically for energy intake, they suggest that by substituting 1 serving of red meat with 1 serving of poultry per day could reduce your chances of CHD by 19% (Bernstein et al., 2010).
Protection Against Cancer
A pollotarian diet may offer protection against cancer.
A 2012 study published in the journal, Annals of Oncology, examined the association between meat intake and incidence of lung cancer.
This systematic review and meta-analysis consisted of twenty-three case-controls and 11 cohort studies.
They reported that individuals with diets consisting predominantly of red meat were at a greater risk of lung cancer, while individuals with diets containing mostly poultry had a reduced risk of lung cancer “A high intake of red meat may increase the risk of lung cancer by about 35%, while a high intake of poultry decreases the risk by about 10%” (Yang et al., 2012).
Reduced Risk of All-Cause Mortality
A pollotarian diet may prolong your life and reduce your risk of dying.
A 2009 study published in the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, investigated the link between meat intake (red, white, and processed) and mortality (deaths related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes).
Over half a million people, between the ages of 50 and 71 were included in this study, with a ten-year follow-up period.
Findings suggest that red meat intake was linked to a greater risk of mortality, while white meat intake was linked to a slightly reduced risk of mortality “modest increases in risk for total mortality, as well as cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality, with higher intakes of red and processed meat in both men and women. In contrast, higher white meat consumption was associated with a small decrease in total and cancer mortality in men and women” (Sinha et al., 2009).
This evidence is further backed up by a 2013 study, conducted by scientists from the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt University, USA, who examined the link between red meat and poultry intake and risk of all-cause mortality.
Data from two large studies, containing over 130 000 Chinese men and women was analysed.
They reported that poultry consumption was linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality “There were suggestive inverse associations of poultry intake with risk of total and all-CVD mortality among men”, while red meat consumption lead to a higher risk of heart attack “Red meat intake was associated with increased risk of ischemic heart disease mortality” (Takata et al., 2013).
Mental Health Benefits
A pollotarian diet may offer mental health benefits by keeping depression and anxiety at bay.
A 2021 study published in the journal, Frontiers in Nutrition, investigated the link between mental disorders and red and white meat consumption.
Over 3000 participants between the ages of 18-55 years were included in this study.
The findings of this current study suggest that white meat consumption is able to reduce your risk of depression and mental distress “high intake of white meat was associated with a lower odds of psychological distress symptoms and a lower risk of depression symptoms” (Kazemi et al., 2021).
While red meat intake was linked to a greater risk of depression “We found that red meat consumption was associated with increased risk of depression symptoms, especially in men” (Kazemi et al., 2021).
Prevent Age-Related Cognitive Decline
A pollotarian diet may protect you from age-related cognitive decline.
A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, examined the effect of long-term dietary patterns on age-related decline in a group of elderly women (4809 participants).
They found that participants who consumed less poultry, fish, and animal fats, and indulged regularly in dairy desserts and ice-creams were more likely to be affected by cognitive decline.
While diets abundant in vegetables, fish, and poultry were protective against age-related impairment when consumed on a long-term basis, ideally starting earlier in life “The present results suggest that prevention of age-related impairment may be reached through a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fish and poultry, and limited in sweet dairy products, not only in later life but starting in middle age” (Vercambre et al., 2009).
Their findings suggest that dietary fibre, omega-3 PUFAs, and B-vitamins play a role in the protective effects offered “These results are consistent with a possible long-term neuroprotective effect of dietary fibre, n-3 polyunsaturated fats and B-group vitamins, and support dietary intervention to prevent cognitive decline” (Vercambre et al., 2009).
What are the dietary secrets of a long, healthy life?
Let’s take a look at the centenarians.
A centenarian is a person who is one hundred years old, or older.
A 2021 study published in the journal, Nutrients, may just be able to provide us with some answers.
The authors of the present study examined the dietary patterns of a population of men and women (aged 90-101 years) living in a part of the Italian island of Sardinia, nicknamed the “Longevity Blue Zone” (LBZ).
Participants were asked to detail their dietary habits and complete a self-rated health, cognition, physical mobility, and disability assessment.
The authors reported that poultry intake was linked to better physical performance ability in the LBZ elders “A mild increase in meat intake, mostly pastured poultry, is associated with better physical performance in the Sardinian LBZ elders, suggesting that a supply of protein may have been crucial to maintaining adequate functional capacity” (Pes et al., 2021).
Evidence suggests that a pollotarian diet is able to provide an array of benefits to your health, including:
While an unbalanced vegetarian diet could be low in important nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, omega-3’ fatty acids, selenium, and zinc; a pollotarian diet is able to provide most of these nutrients to your diet.
Avoid consuming processed meat products, as they contain preservatives, and flavour and colour enhancers which have shown to be detrimental to human health.
Always ensure that you store raw poultry meat at the correct temperatures, and make sure that it has been properly cooked before eating, to destroy any pathogenic bacteria that may be lingering.
Finally, it is advised to discuss with your doctor or dietitian before deciding to follow a new diet.