In a challenge to conventional wisdom about the best way to lower blood cholesterol, a group of scientists from Baylor University has concluded that red meat isn't so bad after all.

Studying 46 men with blood cholesterol levels between 200 and 250 milligrams/deciliter -- which is considered moderately elevated -- the researchers found that lean beef was no different in its effect on cholesterol levels than fish or poultry.

"There has been controversy about the effect of red meat, and as a result, a lot of people who were health-conscious were trying to eat less of it," said Lynne Scott, an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "What we showed is that lean beef had the same effect as chicken or fish."

Scott put them on the recommended diet of the American Heart Association, with less than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. She also served only beef with less than 4 percent fat.

Half of the subjects ate 8 ounces of the beef daily, and the other half ate an identical diet but with 4 ounces of red snapper and 4 ounces of chicken in place of the beef. At the end of four weeks, the overall cholesterol levels of both groups declined by the same amount and there was no statistically significant difference in the levels of HDL and LDL, the so-called "good" and "bad" cholesterols.