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Does Chicken Cause Inflammation?

Medically reviewed on March 7, 2024 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Chicken is renowned for its nutritional benefits, including high-quality protein and essential vitamins. However, concerns have been raised about its potential role in inflammation. While chicken itself does not have anti-inflammatory properties, prepared chicken products, such as those that are smoked, grilled, or cured, may increase inflammation. [1, 2]

Understanding the relationship between chicken consumption and chronic inflammation is crucial for individuals striving to make informed dietary choices that promote their overall well-being. Let’s dive in.

Inflammation is an immune response—and typically a positive one. When harmful pathogens or toxins enter the body, the immune system sends cells to eliminate the invaders, often causing redness and swelling. That said, chronic inflammation, caused by such factors as an unhealthy diet, poor exercise routine, or environmental toxins, can cause life-threatening conditions, like [3]:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Certain cancers, like colon and rectal cancer

Such is the case when consuming unhealthy processed food and meats. Does red meat cause inflammation as well? Due to their high saturated fat contents, inflammation is most commonly associated with red meat consumption, like beef, pork, and venison. [3]

Within the digestive system, microorganisms work to maintain gut health. Saturated and trans fats, however, can disrupt their function and potentially cause a break in the gut barrier, allowing the microorganisms to seep into the bloodstream, which can trigger an inflammatory immune response. [3]

Does chicken cause inflammation, too?

Unseasoned chicken is relatively low in both saturated and trans fats. However, when processed, it can pose a threat to our overall health. Popular processed chicken products include deli meat, hot dogs, patties, and nuggets. These processed meat products are often seasoned, ground, reshaped, and sometimes recolored with dyes. One study even found that roasted poultry, compared to raw poultry, had significantly higher levels of saturated fat. [1]

In other cases, the chicken may be mechanically separated, meaning manufacturers separate chicken meat from the bones using a high-pressure process to create a batter-like product. [4]

A study conducted in New Zealand found that 145 observed mechanically separated chicken samples, from three different processing facilities, were contaminated with the bacterial pathogen Campylobacter, which can cause [5]:

  • Gastroenteritis – The inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal system is part of the body's defense mechanism against the presence of harmful bacteria.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, affecting the digestive tract.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and sometimes inflammation.

Other mechanically separated chicken contaminants were also found throughout this study, including E. coli and salmonella, which may also cause infection and inflammation. That said, these often arise as a result of cross-contamination of equipment within the processed food facility. [5]

How to Prepare Healthier Chicken

Maintaining a healthy approach to preparing chicken is essential to minimize the risk of inflammation and promote overall well-being. Several factors, including cooking methods and portion sizes, play a crucial role in ensuring a nutritious and inflammation-conscious approach to enjoying chicken as a part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Cooking Methods

Opt for healthier cooking methods, like sous vide. This process involves vacuum-sealing seasoned chicken in a food-grade plastic bag, and then cooking it in water. Also, avoid cooking your chicken at excessively high temperatures—such as grilling, frying, or broiling—as it can produce potentially harmful, carcinogenic, and pro-inflammatory compounds, such as [6, 7]:

  • Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) or heterocyclic amines (HCAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Marinating and Seasoning

Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of excessive amounts of salt or high-calorie, high-fat sauces. Certain herbs and spices, such as turmeric and ginger, have anti-inflammatory properties that can also enhance the nutritional profile of the dish. [8]

If marinating, consider using olive oil, which contains beneficial monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. This can add flavor without compromising nutrition. [9]

Portion Control

Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overconsumption of calories and fats. For an anti-inflammatory diet, opt for lean cuts of chicken and ensure a well-balanced meal with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods.

Also, minimize your intake of inflammatory foods such as processed chicken products, including deli meats and sausages, as these may contain additives, preservatives, and contaminants that could contribute to inflammation. [5]

Feed Your Nutritional Health with Everlywell

While chicken itself is not inflammatory, the way it's prepared may trigger an immune response, particularly if it contains high levels of saturated fats or contaminants.

Everlywell is here to help you stay on top of your nutritional health. We provide a variety of at-home tests to monitor potential food sensitivities, inflammation, and metabolic function. If you’re unsure where to start, schedule an appointment with one of our licensed healthcare providers via a virtual care visit. You’ll work one-on-one to discuss your concerns and walk through potential lifestyle changes to bolster your nutritional intake and meet your overall health goals.

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  1. Marangoni F, et al. Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document. Food Nutr Res. Published June 9, 2015. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  2. Papier K, et al. Higher Meat Intake Is Associated with Higher Inflammatory Markers, Mostly Due to Adiposity: Results from UK Biobank. J Nutr. Published September 29, 2021. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  3. Fritsche K. The Science of Fatty Acids and Inflammation. Adv Nutr. Published May 7, 2015. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  4. What is Mechanically Separated Meat? USDA. Published March 23, 2023. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  5. Scientific Opinion on the public health risks related to mechanically separated meat (MSM) derived from poultry and swine. EFSA. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  6. Pleva D. Heterocyclic Amine Formation in Grilled Chicken Depending on Body Parts and Treatment Conditions. Molecules. Published March 28, 2020. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  7. Liao G. Effect of cooking methods on the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines in chicken and duck breast. Meat Sci. Published May 2010. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  8. Zhou X. Synergistic Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Ginger and Turmeric Extracts in Inhibiting Lipopolysaccharide and Interferon-γ-Induced Proinflammatory Mediators. Molecules. Published June 16, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  9. LeWine H. Is extra-virgin olive oil extra healthy? Harvard Health Publishing. Published November 1, 2021. Medical Citation URL. Accessed January 18, 2024.

Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP is a board-certified Family Physician. Since completing her residency training in 2010, she’s been practicing full-scope family medicine in a rural setting. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s practice includes caring for patients of all ages for preventative care as well as chronic disease management. She also provides prenatal care and delivers babies. Dr. Foglesong Stabile completed a teaching fellowship in 2020 and teaches the family medicine clerkship for one of her local medical schools. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s favorite thing about family medicine is the variety of patients she sees in her clinical practice.
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