Presented at the 18th International Conference on Nutrition and Food Sciences in Zurich, Switzerland, the research was carried out by scientists from the University of Adelaide, Australia, who believe meat could be as bad as sugar in contributing to our growing waistlines.
The research showed that availability of sugar and meat contributed to the level of obesity to the same extent, with sugar explaining 50 percent of obesity variation, and meat also explaining a further 50 percent.
After taking into account other major contributors to obesity, including a country’s wealth (Gross Domestic Product), calorie consumption, levels of urbanization and physical inactivity, both sugar and meat availability were still significant factors, each making a 13 percent contribution each to the country’s obesity levels.
Commenting on the results, Professor Maciej Henneberg, one of the study’s co-authors said, “Our findings are likely to be controversial because they suggest that meat contributes to obesity prevalence worldwide at the same extent as sugar.”
Co-author Wenpeng You also added that there is a strong belief that a high carbohydrate diet and high fat diet are major factors contributing to obesity, with previous research suggesting that it is meat’s often high fat content that is to blame for its contribution to obesity levels. However Mr You and the team believe that it is the protein, not fat, in the meat that is contributing to obesity, with Mr You explaining, “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.”
Although the researchers pointed out that their findings should not be interpreted as a green light to eat a diet high in fats and carbs, Mr You did add that a diet lower in meat and sugar is advisable to try to tackle the growing rate of obesity.
The research, which also forms the basis of two papers published in the journals BMC Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences, comes after a wave of recent research looking into the various effects of meat on health.
One of the largest findings to come out of recent studies was the UN’s announcement in October 2015 that eating processed meat, and possibly also red meat, contributes to an increased risk of colon cancer. However the World Health Organization (WHO) also made an announcement that the report was not calling for people to stop eating meat altogether. However the study, plus many others, does suggest that a reduction in meat consumption could be beneficial for health.