When we think of obesity, we typically think of poor diet, excessive sugar and insufficient exercise. We probably don’t think of meat consumption as playing a role. But, new research assessing meat consumption and obesity rates in 170 countries worldwide found that excessive meat consumption may be contributing to obesity as much as excessive sugar consumption.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia, found that excessive meat consumption is contributing to the prevalence of global obesity as much as excessive sugar consumption. They also found that the availability of sugar contributed to the same incidence of obesity as the availability of meat in a particular country. They published their study in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences and in the online medical journalBMC Nutrition.
According to the lead study author, Professor Henneberg: “After correcting for differences in nations’ wealth (in the form of gross domestic product or GDP), calorie consumption, levels of urbanization, and of physical inactivity, which are all major contributors to obesity, sugar availability remained an important factor, contributing independently 13 percent, while meat contributed another 13 percent to obesity.”
Currently there are over 1.9 billion people worldwide who are overweight, with over 600 million of those people falling into the obese category. Considering that overweight and obesity are linked to many serious health conditions including: heart disease, diabetes and even arthritis, it is a real concern to overall long term health.
A large percentage of people seem to equate meat consumption with weight loss thanks to many of the high animal protein diets that are trendy right now. So it should come as no surprise that the over-consumption of meat is rampant in our society. But, in the same way that too much sugar in the diet is converted into fat stores, so too does excessive protein.
Additionally, most people still learn the common misconception from childhood: meat exclusively equals protein. Perhaps the most common sentiment vegans and vegetarians hear when they share their plant-based lifestyle with others is “Where do you get your protein?” as though their diets must invariably be deficient in protein.
While there is protein in meat, there is also protein in many vegetarian sources. Some of the best plant-based sources of protein include:
- Legumes, such as kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, Romano beans, chickpeas, soybeans, edamame (green soybeans)
- Nuts (preferably raw, unsalted), including: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts
- Seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
- Soy products (organic only since soy is heavily genetically-modified), such as tofu, miso, and tempeh
- Dairy alternatives including almond milk, coconut milk, hemp seed milk, and soy milk (choose organic only if you choose soy milk since it is a GMO contaminated crop)
Said Wenpeng You, one of the study’s authors noted: “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 study authors conclude that their findings should not be misconstrued as advice to eat plentiful amounts of fats and carbs.