Researchers found that people who ate more meat gained more weight over 5 years than those who ate less meat, even when consuming the same amount of calories.
The study included more than 370,000 men and women from 10 different European countries participating in a study of cancer and nutrition and other lifestyle factors.
Researchers found that Danes, Germans, Spaniards and Swedes were the biggest meat-eaters, with men eating around 300 calories worth of meat daily and women consuming 200 calories. Among all meat-eating populations, Greeks ate the least, about 200 calories a day for men and 140 for women.
Over the 5-year follow-up period, both men and women gained about a pound a year, on average, although women gained a little less.
Researchers found the more meat a person ate, the more they gained; for every additional 250 grams of meat a person ate daily (the equivalent of a half-pound, 450-calorie steak), their 5-year weight gain would be 4.4 pounds greater, the researchers calculate.
When the researchers looked at different types of meat separately, they found the strongest association with weight gain for poultry, followed by processed meats and red meat.
Researchers note that consuming more meat could be part of an overall unhealthy diet or unhealthy lifestyle. They add that because meat is energy-dense, it could influence appetite control.
Based on the findings, researchers conclude that a person who cut their meat consumption by 250 grams daily (about a half-pound) could conceivably reduce their 5-year weight gain by around 4 pounds.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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