Meat as bad as sugar for obesity

Cutting back on meat as important as reducing sugar intake in drive to tackle global obesity epidemic

Colourful cartoon characters with different weight and BMI indicator

Rather than pinning the global obesity crisis solely on sugar, another unhealthy foodstuff should be sharing the blame: meat. Scientists from the University of Adelaide School of Medicine have been exploring the connection between increased meat eating and increasing waistlines, and say sugar and meat are equally responsible for weight gain around the world.

The research showed sugar and meat were precisely on a par when it came to explaining obesity levels, with each responsible for 50 per cent of obesity variation – which suggests those seeking to lose weight would do as well to cut back on the amount of meat they consume as their sugar intake.

Even factoring in countries’ other contributors to people becoming overweight, such as wealth, calories consumed, and levels of physical activity and urbanisation, sugar and meat were still each responsible for 13 per cent of the causes behind obesity. The research was based on studies carried out in 170 countries.

“Our findings are likely to be controversial because they suggest that meat contributes to obesity prevalence worldwide at the same extent as sugar,” said study co-author Professor Maciej Henneberg.

Wenpeng You, another co-author, added that high protein levels, rather than fat content, were likely to be meat’s major obesity-causing factor: “Whether we like it or not, fats and carbohydrates in modern diets are supplying enough energy to meet our daily needs. Because meat protein is digested later than fats and carbohydrates, this makes the energy we receive from protein a surplus, which is then converted and stored as fat in the human body.”

The findings were presented in Zurich, Switzerland, at the 18th International Conference on Nutrition and Food Sciences. The research also formed the basis of two papers published in BMC Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences.

 

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