With the western world in the grip of an obesity epidemic, it’s good to know there is a simple and cheap way to protect your health and that of your children: meat free eating.
A Spanish study has found that a “pro-vegetarian” or flexitarian diet – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat, by joining Meat Free Monday, for example – can cut your chance of becoming obese in half. The findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal, and could spell good news for the 26 million Britons who are course to be obese by 2030, if current trends continue.
The men and women in white coats tracked the eating habits of 16,000 university graduates for a decade from the moment they threw their mortar boards in the air and set off into the world of work. Each completed a food questionnaire at the start of the process and was scored according to how “pro-vegetarian” their diet was. Points were earned for eating fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, olive oil, legumes and potatoes, and lost for eating animal fats, dairy, eggs, seafood and meat.
Ten years later, 584 of the participants were obese. By comparing the results of the fifth of the cohort who ate most meat with the fifth who ate the least, the researchers found that those who ate the least amount of meat were 43 per cent less likely to become obese.
“Our recommendation is to eat less meat,” said Professor Maira Bes-Rastrollo, one of the authors. “Don’t increase the consumption of animal foods. Prefer plant-based foods to animal foods.”
Other studies have linked a high-meat diet with piling on the pounds. Last year Australian scientists found that meat was as bad as sugar for causing obesity, while countries including Malaysia have considered promoting meat free eating to reduce obesity.