Move Over, Sugar - Now Meat Is The Magic Bullet For Curing Obesity

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If you are not trying to sell a diet book or get on an afternoon medical news program, you probably don't think giving up a food group is a magic bullet for weight loss. Actually, it is. So is a cleanse. That is what crash diets are, even if they don't work in the long term.

In the last few years we also have been told by mainstream media that wheat is some kind of special food for creating obesity, and then others have said both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are.(1) A few even implicate artificial sweeteners.

Now a paper is claiming it's meat.

Meat has been criticized by the eugenics-derived population control movement for carbon dioxide emissions (if poor people would just stick to vegetables, the wealthy could have air conditioning without guilt) while vegetarians want meat gone for self-identification reasons, but causing obesity is new. What it lacks is what all of other claims about special obesity-generating foods lack - a valid biological hypothesis. Instead it falls back on correlational epidemiology - using Body Mass Index (BMI), no less, which isn't taken seriously anywhere - and they throw in some evolutionary speculation to make it feel more like science. It's nice to admit confounders, but they are still there.

Using food availability data from the U.N.s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organisation, along with the World Bank, the scholars mapped meat consumption and obesity rates in 170 countries and their correlation analyses found that meat availability accounted for 50 percent of the obesity variation - even after controlling for calorie consumption and exercise. Meat contributed 13 percent to obesity, the same as sugar.

Relationships between meat availability adjusted for GDP and prevalence of obesity and overweight and mean BMI by country. Credit: DOI: 10.1186/s40795-016-0063-9 Relationships between meat availability adjusted for GDP and prevalence of obesity and overweight and mean BMI by country. Credit: DOI: 10.1186/s40795-016-0063-9

But they don't know what people actually ate, they just know what people could have eaten.

Still, that protein is directly responsible for obesity is at least original. They contend because protein takes longer to digest, it turns into fat because carbohydrates and dietary fat are used for energy first. The flaw in that is that you can't control for calories and then blame what takes longer to digest - it's still too many calories. If carbohydrates and dietary fat are too large a source of calories, people will get fat. Giving up meat would not prevent it. But they suggest other studies agree with them, a scientific logical fallacy, which have found that people who eat more plants are thinner. Studies have also found vegetarians have more mental health issues and cancer - that does not mean the diet caused those.

Regardless, the authors contend the world needs to eat less meat, along with less sugar. Instead, people just need to eat less of everything. In 100 percent of studies, people who consumed fewer calories than they burned, regardless of the type of calories, lost weight.


(1) The CEO of Crossfit even claims Coca-Cola causes diabetes. Then proudly endorses Pepsi. If you can't figure out a metabolic pathway where that makes sense, you will never run a $4 billion company selling exercise videos.