Obesity is defined as excessive fat accumulation that undermines your health and increases your risk of premature death. People with their body mass index (BMI) over 30 are considered obese.

When your body weight reaches that level, it puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, gallstones and some cancers. Being obese also weakens the immune system and so increases the recovery time after an illness or injury.

A large study looked at meat consumption and weight among US adults and found that those who ate the most meat were around 27 per cent more likely to be obese and 33 per cent more likely to have central (around the waist) obesity compared to those eating the least (Wang and Beydoun, 2009). Another scientific study brought similar results – people who ate the most red and processed meat were 37 per cent more likely to be obese than people who ate the least (Rouhani et al., 2014).

An extensive European study also found this link – meat consumption went hand-in-hand with weight gain (Vergnaud et al., 2010). Interestingly, the scientists discovered that eating 250 grams of meat daily would make you gain around half a kilogram more weight per year than eating the same number of calories from different foods.

A few years later, research analysing data from 170 different countries revealed that meat intake was directly linked to excess weight. In fact, meat turned out to be as bad as sugar for weight gain (You and Henneberg, 2016; You and Henneberg, 2016a).

The likely reasons are that meat always contains considerable amounts of saturated fat but also that excess protein (that your body cannot immediately use) is also stored as fat.

Recently, a large study on foods and the risk of obesity found that whole grains, vegetables, fruit and pulses help to prevent obesity while red meat, refined grains and sugar-sweetened drinks increase it (Schlesinger et al., 2019).

When it comes to healthy weight loss, wholefood vegan diets are extremely effective at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, even without portion restriction (Huang et al., 2016; Turner-McGrievy et al., 2015 and 2017; Najjar and Feresin, 2019). Unlike all other diet groups, vegans have a consistently healthy body mass index (BMI) across studies and populations (Le and Sabaté, 2014; Najjar and Feresin, 2019).



Huang RY, Huang CC, Hu FB, Chavarro JE. 2016. Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 31(1):109-16.

Le LT, Sabaté J. 2014. Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. Nutrients. 6(6):2131-2147.

Najjar RS, Feresin RG. 2019. Plant-Based Diets in the Reduction of Body Fat: Physiological Effects and Biochemical Insights. Nutrients. 11(11):2712.

Rouhani MH, Salehi-Abargouei A, Surkan PJ, Azadbakht L. 2014. Is there a relationship between red or processed meat intake and obesity? A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Obesity Reviews. 15 (9) 740-748.

Schlesinger S, Neuenschwander M, Schwedhelm C et al. 2019. Food Groups and Risk of Overweight, Obesity, and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Advances in Nutrition. 10(2):205-218.

Turner-McGrievy GM, Davidson CR, Wingard EE et al. 2015. Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: a randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition. 31(2):350-358.

Turner-McGrievy G, Mandes T, Crimarco A. 2017. A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. 14(5):369-374.

Vergnaud AC, Norat T, Romaguera D et al. 2010. Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 92 (2) 398-407.

Wang Y and Beydoun MA. 2009. Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults. International Journal of Obesity. 33 (6) 621-628.

You and Henneberg, 2016. Meat consumption providing a surplus energy in modern diet contributes to obesity prevalence: an ecological analysis. BMC Nutrition. 2 (1).

You and Henneberg, 2016a. Meat in modern diet, just as bad as sugar, correlates with worldwide obesity: An ecological analysis. Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences. 6 (4) 517.

How to change your diet

Cutting meat out of your diet is not just a healthy choice, it’s also an ethical and sustainable one. If you’re used to meals based around meat, the idea of going meat-free may be daunting but we’re here to help make it super easy! Try vegan!

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All about meat

Find all the above and more in Viva!’s hard-hitting scientific report Meat the Truth.

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