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In this post, I'll address the question: does eating meat contribute to weight gain?

Non-industrial cultures

I'll larn correct to the point: humans living inward a non-industrialized setting tend to live on lean, regardless of how much meat they eat.  This applies as to hunter-gatherers, herders, as well as farmers.

One of the leanest populations I've encountered inward my reading is the 1960s Papua New Republic of Guinea highland farmers of Tukisenta.  They ate a nearly vegan diet composed nearly entirely of sweetness potatoes, occasionally punctuated past times feasts including large amounts of pork.  On average, they ate rattling piddling fauna food.  Visiting researchers noted that the residents of Tukisenta were "muscular as well as to a greater extent than oft than non rattling lean", as well as did non gain obese with historic menstruum (1, Western Diseases, Trowell as well as Burkitt, 1981).

!Kung human being gathering mongongo fruit/nuts.
From The !Kung San, past times Richard B. Lee.
Another remarkably lean hunter-gatherer population is the !Kung San foragers of the Kalahari desert.  The !Kung San are as well as so lean that many of them would live on considered underweight on the criterion trunk volume index scale (BMI less than 18.5).  Average BMI doesn't top xx inward whatever historic menstruum category (The !Kung San, Richard Lee, 1979).  Is this but because they're starving?  It is truthful that they don't ever larn as much nutrient as they'd like, but on most days, they have got the powerfulness to assemble to a greater extent than nutrient than they need.  The fact that they are able to reproduce unremarkably suggests that they aren't starving.  Richard Lee's detailed operate with the !Kung San indicates that around xl per centum of their calories came from fauna foods during his study menstruum inward the 1960s.  This was to a greater extent than oft than non meat, with occasional eggs when available.


Traditionally, the arctic Inuit ate to a greater extent than meat than nearly whatever other population on Earth, due to the scarcity of edible flora foods inward their arctic ecosystem.  We oft perceive the Inuit as fat, but inward fact this is a misconception caused past times their voluminous article of apparel as well as broad faces.  Accounts of traditionally-living Inuit advise that they were inward fact lean underneath all that fur.  Arctic explorer as well as anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson spent a number of years with the Inuit of Alaska as well as Canada inward the early on days of European contact, reporting that they were characteristically lean as well as tally (My Life with the Eskimo, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 1912).

Consistent with Stefanssons's account, Mouratoff as well as colleagues reported that inward Western Alaska inward 1962, only iv per centum of Inuit men, as well as 10 per centum of Inuit women, were overweight (2).  Among middle-aged as well as older men as well as women, fifty-fifty fewer were overweight, inward contrast to the gradual weight gain that characterizes affluent industrialized societies today.  By 1972, the prevalence of overweight had increased substantially, as diets as well as lifestyles continued to modernize inward the area.

Meat eating doesn't seem to have got much of an touching on on trunk weight inward traditionally-living societies, suggesting that it may non live on a major determinant of trunk weight.  However, those societies differ from ours inward many ways.  What is the human relationship betwixt meat eating as well as trunk weight inward affluent societies today?

Observational studies

Vegans don't swallow whatever fauna foods.  The stereotypical vegan trunk type is extremely lean with depression obese as well as musculus mass-- as well as this stereotype is fairly accurate.  Although it's possible to live on vegan as well as obese, most vegans are indeed quite a flake leaner than the typical omnivore, as well as vegetarians are somewhere inward between.  Data from the 38,000-person EPIC-Oxford study illustrate this well, using trunk volume index as a mensurate of fatness (3):





Omnivores are the fattest, pescetarians (fish eaters) as well as vegetarians are tied, as well as vegans are the leanest.  The study suggests that these differences inward trunk weight were linked with both dietary as well as non-dietary factors (e.g., physical activeness level).  This study also illustrates the difficulty of disentangling the trial of meat eating from other diet as well as lifestyle factors, since the vegan grouping exercised much more, ate to a greater extent than fiber, smoked fewer cigarettes, as well as was much less probable to live on married as well as have got children.

In 2010, Bernstein as well as colleagues published a newspaper based on the massive Nurses' Health Study, reporting the association betwixt the intake of dissimilar types of meat as well as cardiovascular direct a opportunity (4).  Although the study wasn't designed to investigate trunk fatness, the newspaper does written report the association betwixt meat intake as well as BMI at baseline (Table 1).  In this cohort, people who ate the most ruby meat or poultry did have got a somewhat higher BMI than those who ate the least.  There was piddling association betwixt fish intake as well as BMI.  Surprisingly, the strongest association was genuinely with poultry.  As usual, meat intake was associated with a number of other diet as well as lifestyle factors.

In 2011, Mozaffarian as well as colleagues published a newspaper on diet as well as weight changes that received a huge total of attending (5).  Drawing from iii large U.S.A. cohorts collectively representing 120,877 people, they reported the association betwixt changes inward dietary habits as well as changes inward trunk weight over 4-year intervals.  They reported a number of associations*, including for unprocessed ruby meat as well as processed meat, both of which were associated with weight gain.  The associations were alongside the stronger of those that they identified.  Unfortunately, they didn't written report information for poultry or fish.

These observational studies job relatively inaccurate dietary measuring tools, as well as endure from a number of potentially serious confounding factors, as well as so nosotros have got to live on careful inward interpreting them.  Still, vegetarians as well as vegans clearly tend to live on leaner than omnivores, as well as I believe meat is business office of the explanation.  Here's why: people swallow fewer calories when they eliminate a nutrient category from the table.  Also, sure meats, such as obese as well as cured meats, are calorie-dense as well as highly palatable, potentially contributing to overeating.  For what it's worth, low-fat vegan diet advocates are consistently alongside the leanest diet advocates.

Now, let's movement beyond observational studies.  What happens to trunk weight when omnivores halt eating fauna foods?

Vegan diet interventions

Physician, researcher as well as vegan diet activist Neal Barnard has conducted a number of vegan diet studies.  In 2007, he co-authored a two-year randomized weight loss study inward overweight post-menopausal women "comparing a vegan diet to a to a greater extent than moderate low-fat diet" (6).  Unfortunately for our purposes, the study didn't isolate the effects of fauna foods specifically, because the vegan diet was also low-fat.

However, the low-fat vegan diet did crusade weight loss.  At i year, vegan participants had lost xi pounds (5 kg), as well as they managed to maintain most of it off for 2 years.  As expected, those who adhered closely to the diet did improve than those who were less adherent.  This grade of weight loss is similar to what is reported from low-carbohydrate dietary interventions, although nosotros don't have got trunk composition information as well as so nosotros don't know how much of the loss came out of musculus tissue.

Vegetarian diet interventions seem to have got a to a greater extent than express trial on trunk weight.  A 2008 randomized trial comparison weight loss diets with or without meat flora that both diets produced a similar grade of weight loss over xviii months (7).

Together, these studies advise that avoiding meat doesn't lift weight loss, but avoiding all fauna foods might.  We don't nonetheless have got a rattling proficient feel of how much of this weight loss comes from obese vs. musculus tissue.

High-protein diet interventions

Low-fat vegan diets crusade weight loss, but gauge what else does too?  High-meat diets!  Or, to a greater extent than precisely, high-protein diets inward which the poly peptide comes to a greater extent than oft than non from meat.

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient: to a greater extent than filling than refined saccharify or fat, per unit of measurement calorie (8).  Lean meat is the most concentrated as well as convenient root of protein.  A number of studies have got shown that high-protein diets crusade people to swallow fewer calories per day, as well as lose fat, without experiencing increased hunger (9, 10).  

Not only do high-protein diets cut down calorie intake as well as promote obese loss, they attenuate the loss of musculus volume as well as reduction of metabolic charge per unit of measurement that occurs during dieting (11, 10).  Not surprisingly, this makes poly peptide i of the most effective ways to back upwards long-term obese loss maintenance (12, 13), along with physical activity.  Protein is a powerful tool inward the obese loss toolbox, which is why it's a key business office of the Ideal Weight Program.  We designed the Ideal Weight Program to conform omnivores, vegetarians, as well as everything inward between, but meat is for sure an slow as well as effective agency to come across your daily poly peptide goal.

Some researchers believe that increased poly peptide intake, rather than reduced refined saccharify intake per se, accounts for the obese loss effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets (14, 10).  The example isn't unopen yet, but at that spot is some evidence to back upwards that view.

Together, the evidence suggests that meat, especially fresh lean meat, is a powerful obese loss tool.

Synthesis as well as conclusion

So, does eating meat contribute to weight gain?  Yes as well as no!

Meat intake has a complex human relationship with trunk weight.  Vegetarian as well as vegan diets are associated with leanness, but at the same time, high-meat diets are i of the most effective obese loss tools nosotros have.

I believe the effects of meat on trunk weight may live on explained past times iii uncomplicated principles:
  1. Taking an entire nutrient category off the tabular array tends to cut down full calorie intake.
  2. Fatty as well as cured meats are calorie-dense as well as highly palatable, as well as tin hence contribute to overeating.
  3. Fresh lean meat is rich inward protein, which tends to increment satiety as well as suppress calorie intake.

* This was the study that caused the media to proclaim that potatoes are fattening.  The argue has to do with a quirk of i of the figures: inward Figure 1, the most widely reproduced figure, the authors lumped the information for French fries together with baked, boiled, as well as mashed potatoes!  Since French fries had past times far the strongest association with weight gain of whatever of the factors they studied (implausibly strong), lumping it together with non-fried potatoes made it look as if all potatoes part the same strong association.  It also had the added do goodness of making Figure 1 aspect nice-- if they hadn't lumped them together, the figure would have got been dominated past times the massive, implausible, French fry data.  The association they flora for baked, boiled as well as mashed potatoes is much less impressive.  People who increased intake of baked, boiled as well as mashed potatoes gained 0.6 lbs over 4 years, compared with 3.4 lbs for French fries, 1.7 lbs for Irish Gaelic patato chips, as well as 1 lb for sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed ruby meat, as well as processed meat.  Also, maintain inward heed that people slather all kinds of calorie-dense toppings on their potatoes, as well as so the effects of the potatoes themselves volition live on hard to disentangle from the toppings.  When is the final fourth dimension you lot saw someone swallow a plainly potato?


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