A University of Adelaide study has found that countries where meat comprises a higher proportion of the average diet have greater rates of obesity.
University of Adelaide Professor of anthropological and comparative anatomy Maciej Henneberg said in a statement the study suggested meat contributed as much as sugar to worldwide obesity.
Published in BMC Nutrition in April, the study looked at the diets of people in 170 countries.
“To digest meat takes a long time, so when we eat it together with other nutrients, such as carbohydrates and fats, the body gets its energy more quickly from these other nutrients,” Prof Henneberg said.
“When the meat is eventually digested then its products become surplus to our body’s needs and are stored as fat.”
Prof Henneberg said people should eat less animal protein and should eat it separately from other foods.
He discouraged people from serving meals including, for example, both steak and mashed potato, or chicken with rice.
University of New South Wales Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity executive director Mark Harris said meat had a lot of calories.
“The amount of meat that corresponds to the size of your palm is about what you should have. If you’re having more than that per day then you’re having too much,” Prof Harris said.
The study built on earlier research studies that found protein was more likely than other food to be converted into fat and vegetarians consistently had a lower BMI than non-vegetarians.