The study, which was published in the American Journal of Medicine, analysed the content of chicken nuggets from two major fast food chains in the US. Researchers found that one nugget contained only 50% meat, while the other contained only 40% meat, with the rest made up of skin, connective tissue, blood vessels nerves and bone fragments.
Lead author Dr Richard deShazo, professor of medicine, paediatrics and immunology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said he was “floored” by the results of the study.
“I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope,” he said.
deShazo refused to name the fast food chains, and admitted the study was small and not necessarily representative of all chicken nuggets on sale in the US. However, he said he wanted to raise awareness that while fresh chicken is a good source of lean protein, chicken nuggets are not a healthy choice.
“What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it, and still call it chicken. It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice. Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them,” he said.
He added that chicken nuggets were fine as an occasional part of a balanced diet, but many people – especially children – were eating them too often.
“We’ve got to learn how to distribute our calories across a diet that includes lean protein, fresh fruit and green vegetables,” he said. “We’re literally eating ourselves to death with obesity. We have to learn to eat a balanced diet where it’s not all carbohydrates and fat.”