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Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain

January 22, 2013 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 7 Comments

Meat is considered fattening due to its caloric density and fat content, but nuts are also packed with calories and fat. As I noted in a previous post, Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain, so maybe we shouldn’t presume. As you can see in my 3-min. video Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study, one of the largest nutrition studies ever performed put the question of meat and weight gain 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. The researchers even calculated how much more and which meat was associated with the most weight gain above and beyond the caloric content.

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, they’d rerun the numbers to 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 folks can plan ahead for the new pants they’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 any of the following videos:

For more on abdominal fat, see:

And 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.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: FBellon / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/shay.jensen.9 Shay Jensen

    Thank again for a wonderful blog. I was following some of the links to why soy might be bad and it was what was added to the soy, not the tofu itself. Anymore it’s hard to find tofu that doesn’t have gypsum added. I do believe Ca Sulfate is bad for the heart if I remember right from some other information on this site?

  • Autumn Sage

    Waist-Height Ratio: the best way to measure abdominal obesity. Hi, Dr. Greger. I am 70 y/o and I have shrunk. I still have all the bones and “stuff” that I had at age 30, but now they are all compacted. Can I use the height I enjoyed at age 30 to measure my W-H Ratio and BMI. And if not, why not?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      Of course you can use your height at 30 but it will underestimate your BMI by increasing the Height in the formula Weight/Height squared. The question is why use the BMI… invented by Adolphe Quetelet in 1832 and popularized by an article by Ancel Keys in 1972. In Keys article he warned that it should be only used for populations not individuals. An article by Romero-Corral et al in 2008 demonstrated that using BMI misses over 50% of adult obesity misclassifying 30% of men and 12% of women. Per cent body fat would be a better way to help determine where you ought to be. “Fit” men tend to be in the 14-17% range and “fit” women tend to be in the 21-24% range. You need to keep eating well as alot of the “shrinkage” in folks as they get older is due to narrowed discs in their spine. Since the nutrition for our disc spaces is derived from the blood supply to our vertebral bodies it is important to keep the them healthy. Narrowed disc spaces is a marker for arterial disease see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cholesterol-and-lower-back-pain/ to see some visuals to drive this point home. So I wouldn’t worry or measure your BMI… eat a whole plant food based diet with a variety of foods that are non-GMO products… see website for Institute for Responsible Technology for a shopping guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wes.james.902 Wes James

    First line from Wikipedia. “Michael Greger, M.D., is an American physician, author, vegan and professional speaker.” Glad to see you don’t have an agenda doc.

  • http://martin.ankerl.com/ Martin Ankerl

    well, it’s an observational study. The conclusion that high meat intake *causes* obesity is pulled out of thin air. Plenty of societies eat a high meat high fat diet and are very slim.

  • Jose Silva

    Sorry, but I don’t believe that because of the studies we can say that the meat will always be bad for a few reasons.

    Americans tend to eat grilled meat, that due to its high temperatures, it’s responsible for the formation of toxic compounds. Meat with blood contains the heme group of hemoglobins, which produces the N-nitrous compound, potencially toxic and carcinogenic. The quality of beef, compared to a french beef, is low. It’s more caloric, fat, contain more cholesterol and less proteins. So, the main problem doesn’t seem to be the meat itself, but it’s quality, prepare and food you serve combined, like french potatoes. You don’t flavor with rosemaries or basil, which would make it better or eat with vegetables or oranges together, so I think that could be another reasons.

    I read these informations in Dr. David Khayat’s book, “The Real Anticancer Diet” which compares the french and american meat. I’m not american, then you should know more about the american meat than me. But I eat meat all week, my family too and we are all thin, but in few quantities, which I don’t believe most americans do.

    I think each one should take make it’s own ideas, don’t create dogmas saying “meat isn’t good”. I think it depends in a lot of factors and the research doesn’t have the truth, they just help us to build it better. Beef has it positive points, like good quantities of zinc, vitamin B12, only found in red meats in good quantities and is important for the body, iron, A, D, E, K vitamins and monosaturated fats. that we need also.

    Is it bad? Think for yourselves.

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