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Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain

Meat is considered fattening due to its caloric density and fat content. Nuts are also packed with calories and fat though, but as I noted in my Care2 post two weeks ago Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain so maybe we shouldn’t presume. As you can see by clicking on the video above, the EPIC study, one of the largest nutrition studies ever performed, recently put this question to the test.

Not only was meat consumption significantly associated with weight gain in both men and women, the link remained even after controlling for calories. That means if you have two people eating the same amount of calories, the person eating the most meat would gain more weight. They even calculated how much more and which meat was associated with the most weight gain above and beyond the caloric content (again, see the video above for details).

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was not happy about these findings. As I detail in my 2-min. video Cattlemen’s Association Has Beef With EPIC Study, a meat industry representative argued that the pounds that the meat-eaters packed on may have been muscle mass, not fat. Maybe they were becoming beefier, not fatter.

Fine, the researcher responded, we’ll not just measure obesity, but abdominal obesity–the worst kind. They took a small sample out of the study, a sample of 91,214 people (that’s how big the study was!) and found the exact same thing. Even when eating the same number of calories, the more meat we eat the more our belly grows. They could even calculate how much our waistline would be expected to expand based on our daily meat consumption. Now we can plan ahead for the new pants we’ll need to buy!

Although nothing comes close to the EPIC study in scale, other recent studies I feature in the video found the same thing. For more findings from the EPIC study see Meat & Multiple MyelomaThousands of Vegans StudiedLow Meat or No Meat?EPIC Findings on LymphomaEPIC StudyOmnivores vs. Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies, and Bowel Movement Frequency.

For more on abdominal fat, see Does Eating Obesity Cause Obesity?, Waistline-Slimming Food, Waistline-Expanding Food, and Milk Protein vs. Soy Protein. Check out my last Care2 post Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important? for what may be the best way to measure abdominal obesity–the waist-to-height ratio.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: FBellon / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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1:05AM PDT on Jul 24, 2014

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6:29AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Carol P, didn't you know that poultry and meat are the big bogeyman? Moo, ha ha ha...or cluck, (rooster crow here.) So many things left unsaid such as eating organic poultry or even meat without factory farmed additions of growth hormones and antibiotics which is perfectly healthy. The correct serving of meat or poultry for those wishing to eat it is the size of a deck of cards. Moderation. What a concept! It is not on the vegan agenda but many meat and poultry eaters eat moderate amounts of organic poultry or meat without a paunch to be had. Gasp...they even exercise and follow a balanced diet! Whisper...but don't let the word get out.

7:04AM PDT on Oct 7, 2012

What about the large number of people who lose weight on the Atkins diet or the study that showed that eating foods high on the glycemic index (which includes meat) causes weight loss?

And it appears that the EPIC-PANACEA study didn't take into consideration how the meat was prepared, whether it was lean or fatty to start, or what made up the remainder of a person's caloric intake.

I have no doubt that eating fried chicken, especially if washed down with a beer, on a regular basis would lead to weight gain.

But I personally know plenty of people whose favorite work-day lunch is a green salad with roasted chicken breast on top - and every one of them is at least five pounds under a healthy weight.

Having a large number of respondents in a study doesn't make up for a lack of scientific method in the study itself.

10:03AM PDT on Sep 26, 2012

Thanks. The cattle industry has too much power.

6:58PM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

Sorry, but I find this hard to believe. I eat lots of meat and I'm 5'2" tall and only weigh 108lbs. I eat anything I want and don't gain weight. I just don't eat sweets very often. I think the weight gain is due to other things you eat and drink, not how much meat you consume.

11:28AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

The secret to not getting paunchy? Simple: eat in moderation any food.

1:46PM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

growth hormones. Children have been getting taller and larger ever since these were introduced. If they cause cattle to grow of course they do the same for humans. I bet the study did not use grass fed organic or wild meat.......

It is the same with so many food and vitamins studies and the like, they don't use natural, unadulterated, organic produce, or natural whole vitamins. They use factory farmed stuff and synthetic vitamins, or extracts. No wonder the results do not make sense to those with intelligence.

2:06PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Yes, it is all about moderation and learning how to eat properly, I agree. Thx for an interesting article.

12:00PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

thanks for the info

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Maybe the points will catch up, if I let the stupid pop-up play. I'm letting the bleeping thing run…


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