Health Topics

  1. #
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. D
  6. E
  7. F
  8. G
  9. H
  10. I
  11. J
  12. K
  13. L
  14. M
  15. N
  16. O
  17. P
  18. Q
  19. R
  20. S
  21. T
  22. U
  23. V
  24. W
  25. X
  26. Y
  27. Z
Browse All Topics

Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?

The implications of chicken now having ten times more fat and calories.

November 11, 2010 |
GD Star Rating


Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to Erik Viggh.


Of course that may just be because chickens these days, are mostly fat. Up to three times more fat than protein. See now we confine animals, genetically manipulate them, pump them full of growth promoters, deny them exercise…
How fat have our chickens got? You’re not going to believe this. According to the USDA, a hundred years ago a serving of chicken used to only have 16 calories. That’s half the calories of a brown rice cake. Now, one serving of chicken has over 200 calories, like eating a scoop of ice cream. The fat went from less than 2 grams, to 23 grams of animal fat per serving—twice the fat of ice cream. So now chicken has ten times more fat; ten times more calories—so that could well explain why chicken has been so tied to human abdominal girth, no viral explanation is necessary.
In fact the chickens themselves may be technically obese, raising the concern does eating obesity cause obesity in the consumer? A chicken carcass now contains two to three times the energy coming from fat compared with protein. Parents may think they’re feeding their children a low-fat product, as it was when they were kids, but are instead unknowingly feeding their children on a high-fat product. The cocktail of gene selection for fast weight gain, lack of exercise and high-energy food available 24 hours a day, is a simple and well-understood recipe for obesity in these birds.
Farm animals used to make DHA, the long chain omega 3 fatty acid important for the brain, but fast-growing animals fail to fully synthesize it in muscle. This reversal in fatty acid status in intensively-reared chickens is described as a most unusual new phenomenon. It is likely to be the result of genetic selection for fast growth ourstripping the biosynthetic process.
To obtain the same amount of DHA from intensively reared chickens today as would have been obtained in the 1970s, one would be required to eat six whole chickens—that’s like 9000 calories. These researchers, at the Institute of Brain Chemistry, go as far as to suggest that this may be in part why we’ve seen skyrocketing human mental illness.
Although the intensification of chickens alone cannot be responsible for this rise in brain disorders, they consider it part of the package of changes in our food system that has ignored human nutrition.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on obesity. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain and Diet and Cellulite 

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on obesity. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Toxins

    So how much fat to protein would you say is in a single chicken breast?

    • walfaro

      According to the article cited in the video, there is a fat:protein ratio (energy) 3:2 in reported data from 2004. It used to be 0:4 in 1870.

      • Toxins

        Excellent, thanks. This is Valuable knowledge

  • wickedchicken

    There is so little visible fat on chickens e.g. a skinless chicken breast. I don’t see how it’s such a high ratio.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Much of the fat in chicken is in the muscle (meat) itself, what’s called intramyocellular lipid, where droplets of fat build up inside the muscle cell itself. In fact that’s why chickens are used as experimental models of human obesity, since the buildup of fat inside our own muscles is thought to contribute to the insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes, and chickens are one of the few animals fat enough mirror our obese population. This month in the medical journal Stress, for example, a team of Chinese scientists found that stress hormones may actually facilitate this process of fat accumulation within the muscles of chickens, raising the question of whether the conditions in which most chickens are raised these days may indeed be making their nutritional profile even worse as suggested in the “Modern Organic and Broiler Chickens Sold for Human Consumption Provide More Energy from Fat than Protein” article I profile in the Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity? video.

  • wickedchicken

    oh my, that is shocking. thanks, i never knew!

  • Toxins

    Why is it that the USDA states that a chicken breast only has 6 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat when this study shows otherwise. Is the methodology used in the USDA lab study folly?

  • LynnCS

    I need to see more of these videos and posts.  I respond to these graphic facts.  I haven’t made meat of any kind a staple of my diet for years, but still wondered if I’m doing the right thing.  You have put the nail in that…uh, box!  Thank you.  Now I am more and more sure that my plant based, fruit and vegi diet is the right thing for me.  Now I need to decide if I should be concerned about every little nutrient, or just go for the fruit and green vegis as a mainstay and not worry about it.  I am due for my blood tests, so that might help in my decision.  Still trying to learn all about the low fat vegan diet and what is good for me.  Altho, I have been mostly vegitarian for 32 years, I am trying to refine it to avoid the perils associated with old age.  

    I love your site; both for the info you give and the intelligent responses.  Thanks everyone.  You may never know how much encouragement from you all.  Lynn

  • Donna

    I’m puzzled as to how the caloric and fat values are determined in this video. If one gram of fat has 9 calories, then a 16 calorie serving of chicken in the early 1900s would derive all of its calories from fat and no calories from anything else. If a present day chicken serving has 23 grams of fat, that would equate to 207 calories from fat. Your data gave 208 calories for one serving, suggesting that one calorie came from something other than fat. Is this possible?

  • Nebuladancer

    At 1:36, it sounds like you say, “Unknowingly feeding their chicken on a high fat…”

  • Chahna

    So the implication is that modern producers of chicken meat are rearing animals that are unfit for the health of the general population. The information provided by the studies and presented here does not translate to the labeling of the chicken products we are buying in our supermarket now. Do these types of rearing and farming problems also apply to other meat sources? What about polluted fish? Soil is depleted and polluted and there is plenty of information about this. Water sources are unfit to drink. What chance does the ordinary consumer stand, in a market full of misinformation and blatant omissions, to eat a healthy and balanced diet? Is there any wonder there are so many obese people?

  • Han

    Dear Doctor Gregar,

    This seems to be confirming the points that paleo people are trying to make. Of course a real freerange chicken that was living outside with lots of space, that had to work for getting it’s food etc etc would be much more healthy than an industry chicken.

    But what is the health benefit of a healthy vegan diet over a similar diet that included said healthy chicken? Has there been any studies on that subject?

    The average paleo diet still seems to be based on carb restricting so that won’t count as a healthy diet.