Is obesity linked to eating meat?

Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors that can adversely affect an individual’s long-term fitness and health. Obesity has been linked to various non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart problems, asthma and can even worsen other diseases. Despite the significant health risks of obesity, nearly 2 billion adults were overweight of which 650 million were obese in 2016, according to data from the World Health Organization.

While obesity can result from a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, personality traits, socioeconomic status and more, it is also affected by one’s diet. As a result, many individuals wonder whether eating meat is a risk factor causing obesity.

“Animal products contain much more fat than plant-based foods. Because vegetarian diets are the only diets that work for long-term weight loss, it’s no surprise that population studies show that meat-eaters have three times the obesity rate of vegetarians and nine times the obesity rate of vegans,” says Dr. Deborah Wilson on a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) blog.

According to the WHO, obesity is defined as when an individual has a Body Mass Index higher than 30. Fundamentally, obesity is caused when individuals consume more calories than what they expend in a day. The concept of ‘calories in, calories out’, or CICO as it is sometimes known can be used to easily understand that the underlying cause of obesity and weight gain is excessive consumption of calories, though various other factors also play a role.

As meat, and especially processed meat products, have significantly higher calories per gram than most plant-based foods, it is easier for meat-eaters as a whole population to be more prone to obesity.

The WHO attributes rising levels of obesity to an increase in the “consumption of energy-dense foods high in fat and free sugars” and a simultaneous “decrease in physical activity due to the changing nature of many types of work, more access to transportation and increased urbanization.”

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