A team of European researchers have found that reducing meat consumption may be a key factor in losing weight and maintaining an healthy body weight. The researchers wrote in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that meat intake, because of its high energy and fat content might be linked to weight gain.

According to some previous observational studies, the researchers wrote, meat consumption is positively linked to weight gain. However, intervention studies had not revealed a clear picture.

The team, from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College London and other European institutions, set out to evaluate the link between total meat, red meat, poultry and processed meat consumption and weight gain after a follow-up of 5 years, involving over 370,000 individuals who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Physical Activity, Nutrition, Alcohol, Cessation of Smoking, Eating Out of Home and Obesity (EPIC-PANACEA) project.

Between 1992 and 2,000 103,455 males and 270,248 females, aged between 25 and 70 were recruited from 10 different European countries.

Country-specific validated questionnaires were used to assess their baseline diets. Their weights and heights were measured at the start; and were subsequently asked to report their weight after five years.

In general, the team discovered that meat intake was linked to weight gain in both sexes; even after factoring in such variables as average calorie intake, physical activity and other counfounders.

The researchers wrote:

Total meat consumption was positively associated with weight gain in men and women, in normal-weight and overweight subjects, and in smokers and nonsmokers. With adjustment for estimated energy intake, an increase in meat intake of 250 g/d (eg, one steak at 450 kcal) would lead to a 2-kg higher weight gain after 5 y (95% CI: 1.5, 2.7 kg). Positive associations were observed for red meat, poultry, and processed meat.


The authors concluded that:

Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management.

“Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study”
Anne-Claire Vergnaud, Teresa Norat, Dora Romaguera, Traci Mouw, Anne M May, Noemie Travier, Jian’an Luan, Nick Wareham, Nadia Slimani, Sabina Rinaldi, Elisabeth Couto, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Vanessa Cottet, Domenico Palli, Claudia Agnoli, Salvatore Panico, Rosario Tumino, Paolo Vineis, Antonio Agudo, Laudina Rodriguez, Maria Jose Sanchez, Pilar Amiano, Aurelio Barricarte, Jose Maria Huerta, Timothy J Key, Elisabeth A Spencer, Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Frederike L Büchner, Philippos Orfanos, Androniki Naska, Antonia Trichopoulou, Sabine Rohrmann, Silke Hermann, Heiner Boeing, Brian Buijsse, Ingegerd Johansson, Veronica Hellstrom, Jonas Manjer, Elisabet Wirfält, Marianne Uhre Jakobsen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjonneland, Jytte Halkjaer, Eiliv Lund, Tonje Braaten, Dagrun Engeset, Andreani Odysseos, Elio Riboli and Petra HM Peeters
Am J Clin Nutr 92: 398-407, 2010. First published June 30, 2010; doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28713

Written by Christian Nordqvist