Meat & Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study

Meat & Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study
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In one of the largest nutrition studies ever, total meat consumption was significantly associated with weight gain in men and women—and the link remained even after controlling for calories.

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“Mainly because of its high energy density and fat content, meat consumption has been considered a determinant of weight gain.” Yeah, but we just looked at nuts, which are dense in calories and fat, and they didn’t appear to contribute to weight gain at all. So, let’s not presume. “Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study.” What is that? Hundreds of thousands of men and women, across ten countries, with weight gain measured over a five-year period.

What did they find? Total meat consumption was positively associated with weight gain in men and women, in normal weight and overweight subjects, and in smokers and non-smokers. Conclusion: “Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management.” And, this was after adjusting for initial weight, physical activity, educational level, smoking status, and total energy intake. Wait a second—what? That’s the kicker. The link between meat and weight gain remained even after controlling for calories.

One would assume that sure, meat is associated with weight gain, because it’s so packed with calories. And so, you’d just get more calories in your daily diet compared to those eating vegetarian, and so, more weight gain. But, no—it’s even more than that. This was after controlling for caloric intake—meaning if you have two people eating the same amount of calories, the person eating more meat may gain more weight. In fact, they even calculated how much more.

An intake of 250 grams of meat a day—like a steak—would lead to an annual weight gain 422 grams higher than the weight gain experienced with the same calorie diet with lower meat intake. After five years, the weight gain would be about five pounds more. Same calories; yet five pounds more, eating meat. And steak was nothing. “The strongest relation with annual weight change [weight gain] was observed for poultry.”

Let’s say you start out normal weight, and eat a hamburger every day. This is how much extra weight, beyond what’s already in the calories, you’d put on every year. What if, instead, you had the same amount of calories of processed meat? Say, a ham sandwich, with three deli slices of ham on it. You’d gain this much extra; whereas, just a half of a chicken breast puts you up here. Though the poultry effect was attenuated, evidently, if you removed people who were previously sick, or who lied about their diet.

“In conclusion, our results indicate that meat intake is positively associated with weight gain” and this “association persisted after adjustment for total energy intake and underlying dietary patterns. Our results are therefore in favor of the public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption for health improvement.”

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 Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Kici via Wikimedia Commons, and Nikchick via flickr

“Mainly because of its high energy density and fat content, meat consumption has been considered a determinant of weight gain.” Yeah, but we just looked at nuts, which are dense in calories and fat, and they didn’t appear to contribute to weight gain at all. So, let’s not presume. “Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study.” What is that? Hundreds of thousands of men and women, across ten countries, with weight gain measured over a five-year period.

What did they find? Total meat consumption was positively associated with weight gain in men and women, in normal weight and overweight subjects, and in smokers and non-smokers. Conclusion: “Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management.” And, this was after adjusting for initial weight, physical activity, educational level, smoking status, and total energy intake. Wait a second—what? That’s the kicker. The link between meat and weight gain remained even after controlling for calories.

One would assume that sure, meat is associated with weight gain, because it’s so packed with calories. And so, you’d just get more calories in your daily diet compared to those eating vegetarian, and so, more weight gain. But, no—it’s even more than that. This was after controlling for caloric intake—meaning if you have two people eating the same amount of calories, the person eating more meat may gain more weight. In fact, they even calculated how much more.

An intake of 250 grams of meat a day—like a steak—would lead to an annual weight gain 422 grams higher than the weight gain experienced with the same calorie diet with lower meat intake. After five years, the weight gain would be about five pounds more. Same calories; yet five pounds more, eating meat. And steak was nothing. “The strongest relation with annual weight change [weight gain] was observed for poultry.”

Let’s say you start out normal weight, and eat a hamburger every day. This is how much extra weight, beyond what’s already in the calories, you’d put on every year. What if, instead, you had the same amount of calories of processed meat? Say, a ham sandwich, with three deli slices of ham on it. You’d gain this much extra; whereas, just a half of a chicken breast puts you up here. Though the poultry effect was attenuated, evidently, if you removed people who were previously sick, or who lied about their diet.

“In conclusion, our results indicate that meat intake is positively associated with weight gain” and this “association persisted after adjustment for total energy intake and underlying dietary patterns. Our results are therefore in favor of the public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption for health improvement.”

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 Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Kici via Wikimedia Commons, and Nikchick via flickr

Doctor's Note

What response was there from the meat industry? Find out in Cattlemen’s Association Has Beef With EPIC Study. For more from the EPIC study, see Meat & Multiple MyelomaThousands of Vegans StudiedEPIC Findings on LymphomaEPIC StudyOmnivores vs. Vegan Nutrient DeficienciesBowel Movement Frequency; and Low Meat or No Meat?

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight GainDiet and Cellulite; and Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important?

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

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