Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?

Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?
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The implications of chicken now having ten times more fat and calories.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One reason poultry intake has been associated with weight gain may be that 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? According to the USDA, a hundred years ago, a serving of chicken may have had only 2 grams of fat per serving. Now, there may be over 20 grams of animal fat per serving—twice the amount of fat that’s in ice cream. Chicken now has ten times more fat; so that could help explain why chicken has been tied to human abdominal girth; no viral explanation 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 to protein. “Parents may think they’re…feeding their children a low-fat product, as it was [when they were kids], but [instead] are 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 their 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 this genetic selection for fast growth outstripping 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—like 9,000 calories. These researchers, at the Institute for Brain Chemistry, go so 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.

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Image thanks to Erik Viggh via Flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One reason poultry intake has been associated with weight gain may be that 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? According to the USDA, a hundred years ago, a serving of chicken may have had only 2 grams of fat per serving. Now, there may be over 20 grams of animal fat per serving—twice the amount of fat that’s in ice cream. Chicken now has ten times more fat; so that could help explain why chicken has been tied to human abdominal girth; no viral explanation 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 to protein. “Parents may think they’re…feeding their children a low-fat product, as it was [when they were kids], but [instead] are 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 their 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 this genetic selection for fast growth outstripping 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—like 9,000 calories. These researchers, at the Institute for Brain Chemistry, go so 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Erik Viggh via Flickr

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos for more on other genetically modified foods:
Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Bt Corn
Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy
Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?
GMO Soy & Breast Cancer

And check out my other videos on obesity

For further context, also see my associated blog posts: Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain and Diet & Cellulite.

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

22 responses to “Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?

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  1. 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.

    1. I too can not find anywhere that says chickens have more fat than protein. Not even close. So not by calories or grams. Has there been any follow up to the study cited here done 6 years ago? Why don’t nutrition databases reflect this?

  2. 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

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. Dr. Greger,
    Please note that in 1896 there was more than 16 calories in a 100 gram serving of chicken. The 16.2 calories in the table referred to the calories from fat in the serving (9×1.8=16.2). This is a serious error that might undermine confidence in your otherwise excellent videos. I hope you fix it.
    Joseph Griffin

    1. The fact that he just unquestioningly accepted that number tells you that he doesn’t understand the subject matter. A table entry stating that 100 grams of chicken contains only 16.2 kcal should make someone with an MD go “wat.”

      1. The table was not reporting calories per 100 grams of chicken, but rather FAT per 100 grams of chicken (and calories in that fat). The numbers are correct. Just multiply x9 to get calories.

    2. Thank you so much! I’ve rerecorded the video to correct it (should just take a few hours to get it up on the site). I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment until today (thank you Karen for pointing me to it!). In the future if you ever see even the slightest error anywhere, please email me asap so I can get it corrected. I can’t thnak you enough for finding it. As is custom on NutritionFacts.org, anyone who finds an error gets a free DVD of their choice–just let me know which one you want and I’ll send it right out!

      1. What a great process for encouraging folks to help catch the very rare mistakes on the videos. The devil is always in the details… chicken breast, skin removed before cooking=785 kcal/#, Roast chicken from fast food restaurant=1290 Kcal/#, Chicken cordon bleu=2259 Kcal/pound. I find Cronometer.com to be a good source of calorie/density. I find calorie density to be the most useful concept in helping patients understand how to achieve a more desirable weight.

  7. Dr. Greger,
    I love your work!! Thank you so much for what you do!!

    I have a question, though. The chickens that are so fatty these days, having more fat than red meat … Are those just conventionally grown chickens? Or do organic, free range, etc chickens included. I’m vegan but my non-vegan friends keep asking and I’m not sure.
    Thanks, Lynn

  8. The study cited, and, therefore, Dr. Greger’s post are a bit misleading. One assumes, after watching Greger’s video, that the study was done on muscle meat, such as a breast, with the fat cut off. One assumes this because the study samples were not specified. Also, one assumes the study was done on muscle meat because this is how people usually eat chicken meat, especially those trying to eat “healthy” or who are on fad “low-carb, high-protein” diets.

    If you read the cited study, however, you see that they measured the fat from the ENTIRE CARCASS.
    “Total lipids from the whole carcass or meat were extracted according the method of Bligh and Dyer or Folch.”
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/01F274E25955E7263FEC19F3BAA64B2E/S1368980009991157a.pdf/modern_organic_and_broiler_chickens_sold_for_human_consumption_provide_more_energy_from_fat_than_protein.pdf

    Therefore, I find this study and post a bit misleading. I read somewhere that inter-cellular fat of chickens has also increased, i.e., the fat that you can neither see, nor cut off. But it would be nice to see a study that looked at the specifically. Maybe Dr. Greger knows of one.

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