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:
- Meat & Multiple Myeloma
- Thousands of Vegans Studied
- Low Meat or No Meat?
- EPIC Findings on Lymphoma
- EPIC Study
- Omnivores vs. Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies
- Bowel Movement Frequency.
For more on abdominal fat, see:
- Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?
- Waistline-Slimming Food
- Waistline-Expanding Food
- Milk Protein vs. Soy Protein
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.
Image credit: FBellon / Flickr
When trying to lose weight, which is most important: diet or exercise? The vast majority of those surveyed believe that both monitoring food and beverage consumption and physical activity are equally important in weight maintenance and weight loss. After equally important, people go with exercise, and then diet. As you can see in my 2-min. video Diet vs. Exercise for Weight Loss, most people get it wrong.
Note the caloric expenditure equivalencies I present in the video are assuming no dietary compensation–something seen quite dramatically, for example, with nut consumption. Given how hard it is to work off food, let’s make our calories count by choosing the most nutrient dense foods, as detailed in my 4-min. video Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score.
Another misconception is that weight alone is a good predictor of disease risk. Body mass index is better since it takes height into account, but it doesn’t describe what or where that mass is. Body-builders can have huge BMIs (especially since muscle is heavier than fat), but that doesn’t mean they’re obese.
As I document in my 2-min. video Keep Your Waist Circumference to Less Than Half Your Height, it is now accepted that health risks can be determined as much by the relative distribution of the excess fat as by its total amount. It’s not so much body fat, but visceral fat–abdominal fat, the fat around our internal organs–that most increases our risk of dying prematurely. Waist circumference takes care of both the “what” and “where” of the weight, so the best metric may be waist-to-height ratio. Move over BMI; we now have WHR.
The target is to keep our waist circumference to less than half our height. Take a cloth measuring tape and measure halfway between the top of your hipbones and the bottom of your ribcage. Stand up straight, breathe deep, exhale, let it all hang out and that measurement should be half our height. If it’s not, we should consider cutting down on our consumption of meat, as I cover in my video Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study. It may also help to cut back on refined plant foods, such as white flour products. Three servings a day of whole grains, however, was recently associated with a slimmer waist in the Framingham Heart Study.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Helga Weber / Flickr