Meat is considered fattening due to its caloric density and fat content. Nuts are also packed with calories and fat though, but as I noted in my blog post Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain so maybe we shouldn’t presume. As you can see by watching Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study, the EPIC study, one of the largest nutrition studies ever performed, recently put this question to the test.
Not only was meat consumption significantly associated with weight gain in both men and women, the link remained even after controlling for calories. That means if you have two people eating the same amount of calories, the person eating the most meat would gain more weight. They even calculated how much more and which meat was associated with the most weight gain above and beyond the caloric contentNational Catt.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was not happy about these findings. As I detail in my 2-min. video Cattlemen’s Association Has Beef With EPIC Study, a meat industry representative argued that the pounds that the meat-eaters packed on may have been muscle mass, not fat. Maybe they were becoming beefier, not fatter.
Fine, the researcher responded, we’ll not just measure obesity, but abdominal obesity–the worst kind. They took a small sample out of the study, a sample of 91,214 people (that’s how big the study was!) and found the exact same thing. Even when eating the same number of calories, the more meat we eat the more our belly grows. They could even calculate how much our waistline would be expected to expand based on our daily meat consumption. Now we can plan ahead for the new pants we’ll need to buy!
Although nothing comes close to the EPIC study in scale, other recent studies I feature in the video found the same thing. For more findings from the EPIC study see Meat & Multiple Myeloma, Thousands of Vegans Studied, Low Meat or No Meat?, EPIC Findings on Lymphoma, EPIC Study, Omnivores vs. Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies, and Bowel Movement Frequency.
For more on abdominal fat, see Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?, Waistline-Slimming Food, Waistline-Expanding Food, and Milk Protein vs. Soy Protein. Check out my last blog post Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important? for what may be the best way to measure abdominal obesity–the waist-to-height ratio.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: FBellon / Flickr