If you’re losing the battle of the bulge in mid-life, it might be time to consider pegging back the weekly meat intake.
A comprehensive new study of 16,000 subjects by leading Spanish university Navarra has revealed that cutting down through a “flexitarian” diet almost halves the risk of obesity.
“It’s not a radical shift to a vegetarian diet, it’s more a gentle approximation,” says Maira Bes-Rastrollo of the University of Navarra, who led the latest study. “It’s not strict.”
Meat is thought to cause weight gain because it contains more fat and is denser in calories, meaning people take in more energy before feeling full.
Of the 16,000 people whose eating patterns were studied in the latest research, 584 became obese over the following decade.
The more plants and less meat people ate, the less likely they were to become obese even after adjusting for age, starting weight and other unhealthy habits, Professor Bes-Rastrollo told the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.
Compared against the fifth with the most carnivorous diets, the risk of obesity was 15 per cent lower among those in the middle fifth, falling to 43 per cent lower for the fifth eating least meat.
Eating lots of processed variations, such as bacon and sausages, has been linked to obesity, and is also thought to raise the risk of illnesses such as cancer, according to a 2015 World Health Organisation report.
Roy Morgan Research in August 2016 reported that between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all, or almost all vegetarian, has risen from 1.7 million people (or 9.7% of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2%).
But overall, Australians are still considered the most voracious meat eaters in the world. They devoured 90.21 kilograms per person in 2014, 170 grams more per person than the Americans, according to the latest figures from the Organisation of Economic Development and Co-operation and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Aside from the reported health benefits of cutting back on meat, it’s also good for the planet, say organisers of World Meat Free Day on June 12.
With the world’s population expected to top 11 billion by 2050, unless we peg back the insatiable demand, the drain on natural resources could be catastrophic.
To put things into perspective, if the entire Australian population tried just one meat free recipe, we’d save:
- The carbon equivalent of the annual power use of 4,467 households
- The land saving of 8,532 rugby fields
- The water equivalent of 1,564 Olympic sized swimming pools
For more information on World Meat Free Day, click here.