Meat consumption is a major contributor to a higher prevalence of obesity worldwide. It is not just the amount of meat consumed, but it is also connected to the way it is digested.
Wenpeng You, PhD student from the University of Adelaide examined the link between growing consumption of meat and increasing rates of obesity in 170 countries. The research was presented at the 18th International Conference on Nutrition and Food Sciences in Switzerland.
‘Meat protein is digested later than fats, carbohydrates and provides a surplus amount of energy, which is then converted and stored as fat in the body.’
"Our findings are likely to be controversial because they suggest that meat contributes to obesity prevalence worldwide to the same extent as sugar," says Professor Maciej Henneberg, head of the Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit.
The degree of urbanization, physical activity and calorie consumption were balanced. The research found that the availability of meat contributed to 13% of the obesity rate. Sugar was a further 13%. But it was not due to the fat content of meat.
"There is a dogma that fats and carbohydrates, especially fats, are the major factors contributing to obesity. We believe the protein in meat is directly contributing to obesity," said You.
Meat provides a surplus amount of energy. Fats and carbohydrates in the modern diets are supply more energy to meet the daily requirements.
"Because meat protein is digested later than fats and carbohydrates, this makes the energy we receive from protein a surplus. This is then converted and stored as fat in the human body," said You.
Which is not to say we should relax about how much sugar and fats are in our diet.
"It would be irresponsible to interpret these findings as meaning that it's okay to keep eating a diet high in fats and carbohydrates," said Professor Henneberg.
"Clearly, that is not okay, and this is a serious issue for our modern diet and human health."