Dr. Richard deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson said white chicken meat is one of the best sources of lean protein available and it's something physicians often encourage their patients to eat.
"I was floored. 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," deShazo said in a statement.
"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."
Dr. Steven Bigler, a pathologist at Baptist Health Systems in Jackson, stained, fixed, sliced and analyzed the nugget sections from two U.S. fast-food chains for the study.
The experiment wasn't designed as a comprehensive study of nuggets from all major fast-food chains, nor do the results from two, randomly selected nuggets from two prominent chains represent all chicken nugget offerings available, deShazo said.
"My concern is that these constitute a large part of people's diets. When you fry any food, you've got a problem because you add a lot of calories to it. And we eat high-fat foods like chicken nuggets rather than fresh fruits and vegetables," deShazo said.
If a large percentage of a particular food is fat, "And it is the predominant food that your child eats, they are going to become obese. And they could eventually get diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and other diseases we call co-morbidities."
The findings were published in The American Journal of Medicine.