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July 22, 2010 7:17 AM   Subscribe

A new study suggests that you will gain more weight if you eat meat, even if you eat the same amount of calories as someone who eats less meat. It might be a good idea to cancel that meat party.

There has been much debate on the efficacy of low carb, high protein diets and many scientific studies undertaken. This issue should be considered far from settled.
posted by furiousxgeorge (99 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The team calculated that in people who ate the same number of calories, an extra 250g of meat a day - equal to a small steak - led to an additional weight gain of 2kg (5lbs) over five years.

A steak a day for an excess gain of 5 lbs over 5 years? I'll take that steak.
posted by vacapinta at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


"We eat more meat than we need. "

If we only ate what we need that would be a sad, sad life.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:26 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


They also don't seem to distinguish what type of weight gain they are talking about. If meat eaters put on extra muscle there is nothing wrong with that.

Atkins supporters will also point out that people on the diet find meat more filling, so it is easier to stick with the calorie limit you have set for yourself.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:27 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is totally anecdotal and not worth one mite in a scientific discussion... but every vegetarian I've ever known was underweight, and apparently needed a little meat in their diet to reach a healthy range.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:28 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not giving up meat for anything. Even if you told me meat would cause me to lose years of my life, steak > years.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:29 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


TWPL: A vegetarian can gain weight eating chips like anyone else, it is harder to get the ton of protein you need for truly healthy weight gain though.

/fat vegetarian.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


REally? I've known several chubby to borderline-fat vegetarians and vegans. No morbidly obese ones though.
posted by Mister_A at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


See? There's one now.

*waves at furiousxgeorge*
posted by Mister_A at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vegan friend posted this to Facebook this morning. No mention of whether or not the weight gain was muscle or fat, no mention of overall health... I mean... Hey, lifting weights is a bad way to slim down too but...
posted by johnnybeggs at 7:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, I got fat while I was still a
meat eater. Working on it. Cutting down on booze seems to help much more than meat or not.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


If there's one thing you can count on about weight loss studies, it's that a single study should be pretty much only of academic interest, but will nevertheless incite pages upon pages of "scientists say..." nonsense from the feebs™ who comprise most of the people writing health advice in the media.

I'm sure someone, somehow, will get a book deal, despite that fact that the message is basically that vegetarians might possibly get marginally less fat in certain circumstances.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as anecdotes go.. I've known some underweight vegetarians in my time, too, The Winsome Parker Lewis, but I've known an equal number of carb-hungry fatty vegetarians.
posted by mbatch at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where's the article link?
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2010


Was the excess weight fat or muscle?
posted by DU at 7:36 AM on July 22, 2010


I know a lot of entirely healthy-weight vegetarians and vegans. And a lot of people who eat small amounts of meat and fish who are also in a reasonable weight range. So, whose anecdotes win?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


She advised people to eat lots of lentils and pulse, wholegrains, fruit and veg and oily fish as well as meat.

Ah, so they're not including fish in this "meat" category? *wipes sweat from brow*
posted by naju at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I know I feel fuller on less calories when I'm eating meat, than when I'm eating a vegetarian meal. When I haven't had access to meat, I've been heavier. Also, the population of vegetarians I know has a similar weight distribution to the omnivores I know, if we're talking anecdata. If anything, they may trend more towards "slightly overweight," for the women. That won't stop this study from getting posted on vegetarians' facebook walls with HURFDURF MEAT EATER commentary, though.
posted by availablelight at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2010


You'll take my hot, dead flesh from my cold, dead hands!

I'm not that extremely carnivorous; I've just always wanted to say that.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:40 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here is the abstract in PubMed.
posted by OmieWise at 7:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right, this is neat to know but when planning a diet and life this is just trivia. If you hold calories constant (which you may or may not but probably won't) and eat meat you will weigh slightly more (not be healthier or with a better body composition) than if you don't. The goal of eating is not to weigh as little as possible. There isn't even a single goal of eating. There are a lot of good reasons for being vegetarian. I don't think this is one of them.
posted by I Foody at 7:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


If we only ate what we need that would be a sad, sad life.

If you can figure out what you need and only eat it*, you will never gain or lose unwanted weight, and enjoy an incredibly diverse diet that you can season and prepare in an enormous variety of ways. As a plus, you'll spend a lot less money on food, enjoy better health, and need fewer cavities drilled.

*that's the real trick though. Best advice is the oft repeated Pollan. Food, not too much, mostly vegetables.
posted by condour75 at 7:43 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, aren't the people who know these things pretty much agreed at this point that it's sugar making us all fat and sick and that if you ruthlessly limit or eliminate it, you can eat (moderate amounts of) more or less anything else you want?

(And by sugar, I mean: actual sugar, all the -oses, corn syrup, starch, alcohol, etc.)
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:46 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


From the article: "led to an additional weight gain of 2kg (5lbs) over five years."

That's one pound a year.

The point of high protein, low carb diets is precisely that you won't consume as many calories eating protein as you would carbs, but you still feel like you've eaten enough.

Furthermore, unless you control for muscle mass, BMI, etc., I don't know how this study comes to any useful conclusion about diet.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2010


Metafilter: It might be a good idea to cancel that meat party.

(Also: is not every meet-up a meat party in meatspace? Can we call them meat-ups? No? Good.)
posted by joe lisboa at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2010


Nihil in Moderato.
posted by chavenet at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2010


A new study suggests that you will gain more weight if you eat meat

That's the idea.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2010


Can anyone find a detailed methodology of this study? The best I've found says the study went like this:

400,000 men and women were recruited from around Europe. They were weighed and completed a questionnaire on their lifestyle and eating habits. Five years later they weighed themselves and completed a second questionnaire.

If so, this is really putting way too much faith in self-reporting.
posted by justkevin at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did they control for deliciousness?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Heh, I got fat while I was still a
meat eater. Working on it. Cutting down on booze seems to help much more than meat or not.


I remember trying to vegetarian to lose weight once. It didn't quite work out when everything I ate was candy bars and ice cream and cheese pizzas.
posted by kmz at 7:54 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some potential limitations of the present study should be mentioned. First, weight at follow-up was self-reported in most centers and was thus most likely underestimated (57). However, strong correlations have been observed between self-reported and measured weights (58). In addition, in our study the accuracy of self-reported weight was improved with the use of a prediction equation (37) and, overall, we observed similar mean annual weight gain in EPIC as in other European populations with measured weights at both baseline and follow-up (56). It is unlikely that the positive association with meat in this study is explained by inaccuracies in weight change. A second limitation is that we measured diet only at baseline and were not able to consider change in diet before or during follow-up. However, we conducted sensitivity analyses with the exclusion of those likely to have modified the diet because of previous illness, and the association persisted. We could not take into account weight change history in our analyses. Body weight tends to fluctuate (59, 60), which can lead to repeated cycles of weight loss and recovery (61–63).Weight cycling has been shown as the strongest predictor of subsequent large weight gain in men (64). Adjustment for self-reported weight at 20 y in a subsample of the study population (n = 169,100) did not change our results. Finally, even if overall response rate at follow-up was high in EPICPANACEA (80.6%), a selection bias could limit the generalization of our results

So that's from the actual paper itself -- I personally have had good results with a high protein diet, but this is mostly because I don't eat as many calories while I'm eating high protein than when I'm eating high carb.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2010


If you can figure out what you need and only eat it*, you will never gain or lose unwanted weight, and enjoy an incredibly diverse diet that you can season and prepare in an enormous variety of ways.

Oh, no weight issues whatsoever, mediterranean-fresh-ingredients-food lover and versatile cook here. I guess I meant something like "I know I don't need foie gras to live but I wouldn't like to skip it". Live to eat and not eat to live and all that.

Also, did they control for sauces and types of preparation? I bet you the dollop of mayo on top of the steak will probably make a big difference as well as that sausage fried in lard.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2010


It's so frustrating reading studies like this, because each one only gives us some little tiny slice of the picture of human metabolism. But immediately it's picked up by the media and turned into a homily. "Meat makes you fat!" "Carbohydrates make you fat!" "Fat makes you fat!". Popular reporting of many sciences is, by necessity, complex and reasonably true to the science. But everyone eats food, and many people have been on diets and watched their weight, so everyone thinks they understand metabolism. "None of my vegetarian friends are fat, so this study must be true!".

The reality of weight and food intake is way more complicated and no one really understands it.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2010


Generally I feel like if you're vegetarian then you need to think about what you eat and take special care to eat in a balanced way. When I was a clueless vegetarian I was constantly tired and my brain wasn't working because I wasn't getting proper nutrients. No wonder that was short-lived.

Anyway, it seems like whether I'm in a vegetarian phase or not, the only way I'm going to lose weight is if I'm exercising often and vigorously.
posted by naju at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, The Winsome Parker Lewis , here's some more anecdotal data, I've known stricts vegans and vegetarians since I was a teenager, and yes some of them were indeed skinny as larks at the time, but then again so was I. Now that we're all older, we're all gaining a few extra pounds around the waist regardless.
posted by dabitch at 8:00 AM on July 22, 2010


No way am I clicking on a link labeled "meat party." I already learned my lemon lesson.
posted by sourwookie at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


This changes everything!
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2010


When I was a clueless vegetarian I was constantly tired and my brain wasn't working because I wasn't getting proper nutrients. No wonder that was short-lived.

When I was a clueless vegetarian, it was during the "Oh my god, don't eat fat. Fat is bad! Fat is edible death!" bullshit of the 1990s. So I was a low-to-no-fat vegetarian, which is about the most miserable possible way to live, aside from being a famine victim. Constantly hungry, never satiated, gaining weight every time you eat one extra half-cup of, well, anything. I would eat a no-fat salad and a big bowl of no-fat rice and a cup of no-fat yogurt and ride my bike 20 miles and literally FANTASIZE about doughnuts and birthday cake the entire time.

After a few years of that, I'm surprised I had any myelin left.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:09 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anecdotal evidence might be especially deceptive in this case because of the influence of social factors on obesity. If you and your friends like to go to the gym and healthy restaurants together, you're probably all in a healthy weight range regardless of whether you eat half a chicken breast when you get there.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:09 AM on July 22, 2010


No way am I clicking on a link labeled "meat party." I already learned my lemon lesson.

That's a good idea. You should stick to safer websites that try to "spin" the benefits of eating meat versus eating vegetarian to encourage more conscious consumption in our eating habits. I've found that meatspin is a very good one for this kind of whole-earth localvore take on the subject.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


An extra weight gain of 5lbs over 5 years would equate to 17,500 kcal total, or just 10 kcal per day. A chocolate chip cookie is about 150kcal, so eating one every 15 days would do it.

So, a tiny difference in the self-reporting of what they eat would also account for these results, if meat eaters are slightly more likely to under-report what they're eating.

That seems quite possible to me, since meat-eaters can just munch away at anything without thinking too hard about it.

I'd be a bit cautious about deciding that human metabolisms must work differently to the way we thought on the basis of a survey of self-reports.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Vegan friend posted this to Facebook this morning. No mention of whether or not the weight gain was muscle or fat, no mention of overall health... I mean... Hey, lifting weights is a bad way to slim down too but...

Using weight as the only measure of health is useless.

You need weight, fat percentage, plus blood statistics, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

There are plenty of good reasons for being vegetarian, but this study isn't one of them.
posted by KaizenSoze at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, in terms of good replacements for meat, I've been COMPLETELY FUCKING JAZZED about tempeh lately. It's always been one of my favorite high-protein foods, but they just started carrying a cheaper variety of it at the grocery store, and I've eating tempeh like nobody's business.

What's REALLY great is that I make my own Greek yogurt, which has the side effect of having tons of whey all the time. Since tempeh becomes less bitter and more delicious when one boils it, I've been boiling it in whey, with a bit of hot sauce and whatever other spices I feel like adding. The result is slightly tart, savory, and completely awesome on salads or in curries. It's filling, it's got lots of fiber and protein, and it's delicious. This has become such an all-consuming love that I've begun thinking about trying to make my own tempeh at home. DARE I?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's the meat, I think it is what's in the meat.
posted by adamvasco at 8:18 AM on July 22, 2010


Honestly, this is a weak, axe grindy post that should be posted to your blog instead. Links to turducken and mooseburger recipes, while highlighting a single new study doesn't really do anything except start the usual vega/meat eater fight.
posted by new brand day at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2010


Here is the abstract in PubMed.

Wow, that seems like pretty crazy data mining of a generic health and diet study to make very specific conclusions about meat and weight gain.
posted by smackfu at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010


To elaborate a little bit on what Nelson said:

Man, there are so many different ways for your body to put on weight, and it's sad that people keep waiting for that ONE UNIVERSAL ANSWER to weight gain so they know to just avoid/moderate Food X and be healthy. The reality is you can gain weight from excess fat. You can gain weight from excess protein. You can gain weight from excess carbohydrates. You need all of them, in certain amounts, and if you over do it on any of them they will do you wrong, but in different ways.

For example: I've been doing some research on fructose vs. glucose lately (as part of trying edumacate myself more on HFCS). It was previously thougth that fructose might be a good sweetening alternative for diabetics, as it's low on the glycemic index and doesn't affect blood sugar much. So, great!

Except! Fructose is absorbed and metabolized differently than glucose. Fructose is metabolized almost entirely in the liver, and it enters the glycolytic pathway in an intermediate stage, effectively skipping over an early rate-limiting enzyme step that would otherwise control its metabolism. What's more, when it's metabolized, it forms molecules that favor the formation of fats. So, extra fructose + unregulated metabolism = increase in triglycerides. What's more, because fructose doesn't affect blood sugar levels or insulin response, another hormone called leptin is also reduced, because its secretion is stimulated by the presence of insulin. (Leptin helps to induce feelings of satiety.) And! Ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, is found in higher concentrations before meals and falls after meals. Blood glucose and insulin levels help to suppress ghrelin after eating, but if these levels are diminished, ghrelin is not effectively suppressed. All of these factors can lead to reduced feelings of satiety, possibly resulting in increased food intake. More triglycerides and higher relative calorie intake are things that are not particularly helpful for those with diabetes.

So... is fructose still a good alternative? What's the answer? Metabolism is complicated. Even from person to person. Reducing it to a single food type proscription does no one any favors.
posted by hegemone at 8:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not seeing a lot of fighting here, new brand day.
posted by Mister_A at 8:35 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh totally agreed lucia, (except, maybe specifically foie gras).

We all know, more or less, how to eat healthy. Limit calories altogether (if weight is a problem), make sure our diet is diverse and has lots of vegetables, and limit processed foods. But that's tedious and difficult in a world that sells us fat, sugar and salt at every turn. So naturally we want to outsmart it, find some trick that will make it easier, when what we really have to work on is the aforementioned social factors and our own personal motivation. Which is why these studies always end up on the most-emailed lists. They're like lifehacker for food.
posted by condour75 at 8:40 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reality of weight and food intake is way more complicated and no one really understands it.

I wouldn't go so far as to say, "no one really understands it." It's more just the fact that it's a series of interconnected variables and equations that vary for each person, rather than "CALORIES_IN - CALORIES_SPENT = WEIGHT_GAINED." Our understanding is not perfect, and people have imperfect recollection of what they eat, as well as imperfect willpower. However, we have a pretty good idea of nutrition and how it all works, and to say, "no one really understands it" is like saying, "no one really understands gravity" in the context of a physics discussion.
posted by explosion at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2010


There is a difference between understanding gravity and understanding its effects. Similarly, the black box between food and health.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:48 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fucking diets, how do they work?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:54 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


It counters the theory that diets with high amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrate promote weight loss.

No...it only really counters the theory that diets with 250g of meat and otherwise normal levels of CHO promote weight loss, right? (And was that ever really a theory in the first place?)

"Portion size is the other thing - a portion of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards."

And this kind of statement pisses me off. A portion of meat should be however much you need to feel satisfied, and to feel and function well. That is going to be different from person to person.

Participants from 10 European countries, including the UK, were weighed and measured at the start and then asked to report their weight five years later.

They also filled in a detailed food questionnaire.


It is notoriously difficult not only to get accurate self-reported weights, but especially to get accurate self-reported dietary patterns. And if they used "food frequency questionnaires" as the food-measuring tool, then they also used the most blunt, least precise dietary self-reporting tool there is.

Headlines like this based on studies like this annoy me. Not saying it was necessarily a terrible study (would have to read the full text), but the results are not quite as cut-and-dried as the headline and some of the quotes would lead you to think.

But it fits nicely into one of our popular cultural narratives -- "Meat is bad for you!" -- therefore it grabs attention and might be widely accepted at face value.
posted by Ouisch at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Want to know more about this. It does seem very odd that the same calorie intake and expenditure would result in different weight outcomes.

Over time, my red meat intake continues to decrease. I don't even eat as much chicken and turkey any more. I wonder if I'm going to end up as a vegetarian old lady without even noticing how I got there.
posted by bearwife at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2010


Also, aren't the people who know these things pretty much agreed at this point that it's sugar making us all fat and sick and that if you ruthlessly limit or eliminate it, you can eat (moderate amounts of) more or less anything else you want?

I don't know about sick, but sugar was certainly what made me fat... not just fat, but in the obese category, albeit just barely.

When I turned 40 I decided I wasn't going to be fat any more, and stopped drinking soda, eating candy and pretty much all processed foods. I'm 40.5 and have lost 35 lbs. and still eat steak, burgers, bacon, whatever I want, just not as much, and no sugar (except fruit in the morning), and...

The big exception is beer. Still drinking beer, but again, not as much.

I still get sick at the same rate, though, which is 0-1 times per year.
posted by Huck500 at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2010


The problem with food in western culture in general is that there's fucking FOOD EVERYWHERE, and most of it is junk, and there is overt and covert pressure placed on people to eat, and overeat, all the time. People are overweight and unhealthy because they eat too much for their age and activity level.

I'm not trying to be mean here, but I think both the diet and exercise industries have done people a huge disservice by vastly over-complexifying the basic equation in order to sell their own brand of "cure" to the unwitting consumer.

It's not rocket science—if you are overweight, step 1 is ALWAYS going to be to reduce your intake of calories. In most cases, you should also change the sources of those calories. Now along with that should be some sort of age- and health-appropriate exercise program. If people can do these things and stick with them they will lose weight! Maybe not all the weight - maybe you won't ever have a six-pack- but you will lose weight.

Now, having said that, I understand that the sticking to it is the hardest part. I know it's not easy to give up certain foods and drinks, but in the end, you must do so if it is really important for you to live a healthier life at a healthier weight. So all this stuff about meat vs. veggie is just a distraction. It's simple —don't eat so much and get some exercise! And that simple prescription is one of the hardest things to follow.
posted by Mister_A at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is totally anecdotal and not worth one mite in a scientific discussion... but every vegetarian I've ever known was underweight, and apparently needed a little meat in their diet to reach a healthy range.

This doesn't reflect my experience. I've known vegetarians who were skinny to medium to overweight. I can't think of a vegetarian I've known who was oddly underweight.

Also, there are so many different ways a vegetarian can eat. I've known people who gained weight when they went vegetarian, and I've known people who lost weight. If you have trouble knowing how to fill the gap that used to be filled by meat, and this causes you to load up on chips, crackers, cheese, junk food, and desserts in a desperate attempt to feel "full," well, guess what -- you're going to gain weight. But that's not "the vegetarian diet," it's one individual who's doing a less-than-ideal job of eating right.

In the past 2 or 3 years, I've lost about 25 pounds, though my BMI has been in the normal range the whole time. (And I eat way more desserts than I should and don't worry about how much I'm eating.) Yet I've been a vegetarian (not vegan) for about 20 years. I attribute the change to getting serious about cooking, which has led to eating a lot more vegetables and eating fewer meals in restaurants.

I do agree with the first comment that focusing on how eating a lot of steak for a long time will make you gain a tiny amount of weight is not going to sway many people to eat less meat. People usually keep eating what they want, not what someone else prescribes to them. Conversely, I always found it a boring chore to get through a steak, so whenever I see meat-eaters go on and on about how great meat and steak are, I just think, "What are you talking about?" If I had no concern about ethics or health or the environment, I'd still get so much more pleasure out of sauteed asparagus with lemon.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:11 AM on July 22, 2010


eating fewer meals in restaurants.

Amen to that! Having control over preparation of your food is a huge part of weight loss and control. Like Jaltcoh says, preparing your own is the best way to exercise that control.
posted by Mister_A at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everyone is different and studies like this suck.

The strongest association was found with processed meat, such as sausages and ham, the Imperial College London team reported.
The title of their study should be "Cut down on processed crap to lose weight."

I wouldn't consider a diet where your meats are ham and sausage to be high protein either. More like high fat.

I can eat steak, chicken, and ground beef in HUGE amounts for months on end without gaining weight and without counting calories.

As soon as I add bread or milk into that and remove some of the meat based meals I start gaining fat each week. According to my blood glucose levels I'm fairly carb tolerant too.

People need to put in the effort to see how many calories they need for their body type and then play around with different macro-nutrient breakdowns. Try a relatively equal protein\fat\carb split, a high-carb and then low-carb plan for about 6-8 weeks each.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:28 AM on July 22, 2010


Everyone is different

Yep, they are looking at a pop. of 400,000 people. It is interesting to see a trend across that population, but it is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions.
posted by Mister_A at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2010


My personal feeling about all this as a middle-aged heavyset (ahem) kind of person is that the most important insight about dieting and diet is very simple (and has been referred to already in this thread): think about what you eat.

When you're not thinking, you're probably overeating.

Maybe it's a primordial survival mechanism, maybe just gluttony, whatever. When you start thinking about it, you eat less, maybe you even eat better. Some people need the apparatus of a formalized diet to do this thinking: count fat grams! Count calories! Eat only foods on certain lists! Eat no meat! Eat only meat! Eat only this kind of meat! Read ingredients! Write down every thing you eat! Chart your progress! Yaddayaddayadda.

Some people can do it without the apparatus, some can't.

Of course, some people are naturally large, some naturally skinny. There is obviously huge variation in body type all up and down the spectrum of humanity. Not all of it has to do with intake of food, nor with thinking about what you eat.

But if you have the luxury of being able to adjust your diet at all -- the choice, that is, to eat whatever you like -- then you'll have to think about it in order to not overdo it.
posted by chavenet at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2010


On the vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian front:

I was vegan for a long time. At first it felt great. I was, the entire time, what you'd call a healthy vegan, I didn't eat junk food except on rare occasions. Near the end of my veganism, I started getting ill. My husband also, but me to a greater extent. We were pale white, couldn't think clearly, always tired. We were gaining weight rather than losing it and I started to go gray and my teeth were feeling weaker every day among many other health problems I don't want to mention here. I was also severely B12 deficient, according to blood tests, and this is WITH supplementation and fortified foods.

As soon as I started eating meat and drinking milk again, my complexion changed. My B12 is building back up, I feel great, I'm losing weight again. I can think more clearly than I've been able to in years. The graying stopped happening so fast, my teeth feel better.

So this study can shove itself up the creators arses. I'm going to eat my meat and drink my milk and ignore misguided advice that veggies love to cling to to make themselves feel better about a diet that's actually not that good for you.
posted by Malice at 9:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malice, perhaps you should have said, "...a diet that's actually not that good for me, Malice."
posted by Mister_A at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Malice, you're conflating vegetarianism with veganism.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


My girlfriend/wife person just graduated from nursing school in the South. During a unit on nutrition, one of her classmates was like, "Well, how much red meat is it okay to eat?" And the instructor goes, "Humans should *never eat read meat." This was a surprise--we're both vegetarian and predisposed to such ideas, but her instructor was a conservative Christian non-vegetarian from whom she didn't expect to hear this. (I realize conservative Christians can be open to vegetarianism as much as the godless, but round here those Venn diagrams are like O O.)

Also, she learned that the RDA for calcium is based on a meat-eating diet--turns out meat interferes with calcium absorption or something. So if you want strong bones, as the sailor said, eat your spinach.
posted by Zerowensboring at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2010


Also, she learned that the RDA for calcium is based on a meat-eating diet

Not to be super-pedantic, but there is no RDA for calcium. There's an AI, but it's a more population-guesstimate type of number, rather than a hard recommendation for individuals.

And the instructor goes, "Humans should *never eat read meat."

In four years in a dietetics program, I have never heard this from any of my professors. Red meat has zinc and MFP factor and B12 and heme iron and all kinds of things that are nice for the body. I'd really question this statement. Even the saturated fat in red meat is not necessarily all that bad for you -- for example stearic acid hasn't been shown to raise blood cholesterol AFAIK (and the rise in blood cholesterol is usually the reason given for not recommending red meat.)

Also, pretty much no foods are across-the-board-bad-for-everyone. People in different situations with different physical conditions need different foods in different amounts. Absolute statements like that are extremely suspect.
posted by Ouisch at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I seriously can't understand why anyone would use self-reported calorie data in a scientific study.

No one EVER self-reports the true number of calories they've eaten. NOT EVEN TO THEMSELVES.

That is why many people lose weight simply by writing down their actual caloric intake every day (SparkPeople, Weight Watchers, et al). Just noting how many calories you've just eaten and recording it for posterity is often enough to short-circuit your Inner Liar.
posted by ErikaB at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2010


I seriously can't understand why anyone would use self-reported calorie data in a scientific study.

Unfortunately, it's pretty much the only reasonably inexpensive way to measure food intake. Getting a population of 40,000 into a standardized setting where their food intake is observed and measured for a long enough period of time is really difficult and very expensive.

Ideally, they'd use three self-report measures in combination, though: the food frequency questionnaire, the three-day or seven-day food diary, and the dietitian-administered 24-hour recall. Just using one of these is really not good enough, and as I said above, the FFQ alone is probably the least precise measure of these three.
posted by Ouisch at 10:25 AM on July 22, 2010


If we only ate what we need that would be a sad, sad sustainable life.

Cutting down on booze seems to help much more than meat or not.

Oh my, yes. If you're trying to lose weight, cutting out the processed sugar is essential.

As I've aged, I've adjusted by eliminating my consumption of all mixers. Now I only drink straight liquor.

Anyway, it seems like whether I'm in a vegetarian phase or not, the only way I'm going to lose weight is if I'm exercising often and vigorously.

I'm on the other end of the spectrum. Exercising makes me feel better and healthier, but nothing helps me lose weight like eating less. I'm in pretty good shape and it's *much* easier for me to cut calories than to burn them.

Near the end of my veganism, I started getting ill.

GREEN SMOOTHIES!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:31 AM on July 22, 2010


You need weight, fat percentage, plus blood statistics, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

I'd like to see a formula that converted these into a single number or index of health. You could post it on your Facebook page and turn your health into a Farmville-style game. [quickly searching patents]
posted by mecran01 at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2010


Honestly, this is a weak, axe grindy post

Haha, I'm trying to grind my axe on my comments suggesting problems with the study and how you can eat less calories when you eat meat but my axe is still dull. Someone post some PETA ads or something, I have to chop some wood later.


GREEN SMOOTHIES!


Oh hell yes. I should have linked the Green Monster in the FPP.

So this study can shove itself up the creators arses. I'm going to eat my meat and drink my milk and ignore misguided advice that veggies love to cling to to make themselves feel better about a diet that's actually not that good for you.


Uhh yeah, as mentioned above that is more a vegan problem. It gets a lot harder to get proper nutrition when you cut out meat and dairy. Vegetarians have to keep an eye on that stuff but it is not a major issue. You can achieve complete healthy nutrition on a vegetarian diet at any age, barring medical conditions.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2010


I'd like to see a formula that converted these into a single number or index of health.

I'm an overweight baseball geek. If they can sabremetric my health, I'd be losing weight and feeling healthier to get my Runs Created and OPS up.
posted by grubi at 11:02 AM on July 22, 2010



I'm an overweight baseball geek. If they can sabremetric my health, I'd be losing weight and feeling healthier to get my Runs Created and OPS up.


HaHa, I credit quitting WoW and the need to involve myself in a new boring grind for my current enthusiasm for exercise. Each pound is a level down. I also club and skin small animals as I walk and try and sell them to shopkeepers, that is when I get to practice running.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2010


but every vegetarian I've ever known was underweight

As a vegan & vegetarian, I was at various times underweight (135lbs at 6') and overweight (205 at the same height). So it depends on your lifestyle and what that means --- do you eat nothing but fried food? Not going to be a thin vegetarian. Do you eat crackers and water? Very thing vegetarian. Neither of my extremes came from healthy eating, suffice it to say.

I think there is some correlation between vegetarianism and not being overweight, but a lot of that is people who are vegetarian for health reasons. They obviously would tend to be better off, since they're _also_ watching what they eat for all sorts of unhealthy food. I was vegan/vegetarian for strictly ethical reasons, so I ate all kinds of non-animal-based junk.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2010


furiousxgeorge, you should save those pelts for the next Running expansion: Apocalype Shoes!
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malice, perhaps you should have said, "...a diet that's actually not that good for me, Malice. human beings."

Fixed.


Malice, you're conflating vegetarianism with veganism.


You're right. My apologies.
posted by Malice at 11:16 AM on July 22, 2010


Oh, now I'm convinced.
posted by Mister_A at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Food and diet are rapidly turning into a quasi-religious issue that is almost impossible to really talk about, unless you are speaking to members of your own faith.
posted by mecran01 at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, pretty much no foods are across-the-board-bad-for-everyone....

Agreed--my beloved tub of cookie dough ice cream has protein, calcium, b12, and other treats in it. The anti-ice cream cabal will pry it from my fat, sticky fingers.

But srsly, I think she was saying, via hyperbole and scaremongering, that in the South, we eat too many hamburgers and we are unhealthy because of it--we're not generally grilling filets mignons. It's possible to flourish without hamburgers. Eat fewer hamburgers.
posted by Zerowensboring at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2010


Food really and truly does have nutrients in it. Even ice cream. For certain people with certain health conditions, ice cream is not just a fun treat, but an absolutely essential component of a health diet. I am not exaggerating, and there are far more people out there with such health conditions than you might imagine. It's not always obvious from outward appearances.

Anyhow, you're seeming to imply that filet mignon is somehow objectively better/healthier than hamburgers. Why would this be? Assuming that the quality of the meat is the same and that safe processing practices are used, I doubt there is much of one.

The most obvious difference is that one denotes higher class food than the other. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader which is which.

Recently, a lot of higher class food has been labelled as "healthier" for not entirely evidence-based reasons. You might even speculate that our culture has certain biases when it comes to food.
posted by Ouisch at 11:44 AM on July 22, 2010


I am not a vegetarian, but from all accounts of how much meat the average person in my society eats, my observations, and general impression, I eat a relatively low amount of meat, maybe 20g/day on average.

For commuting, my own sanity, and enjoyment, I exercise vigorously for about 1 hour a day. In this period I am often sprinting for extended stretches on my bicycle, which seems to be equivalent to power lifting...

After several months of this new routine, I started losing muscle mass. I noticed it in my arms, then legs. I had the impression that I was inducing small muscle tears in almost all the muscle groups in my body. Slight aches began to creep up on me. I felt tired much more often than I was used to.

I began to develop a complex about protein. At dinner with my (mostly vegetarian) housemates I would stare longingly at pieces of fried tofu, beans, veggie patties, and the like. I felt slighted when given an equal portion to my friends.

Eventually I decided that I would eat as much meat as I wanted. I would eat a second lunch if that's what I felt like. I would eat roast-beef sandwiches and fish tacos every day. The tiredness eased. My muscles grew.

The point of this story is to second what everyone has said about the inaccuracy of suggesting that everyone limit their meat intake to some arbitrary amount. Some people need more. Some people need less. Be careful in your quest for an ideal diet. There is such a thing as too little.
posted by melatonic at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2010


I was also severely B12 deficient, according to blood tests, and this is WITH supplementation and fortified foods.

I am intensely curious as to how you managed this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:09 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


For certain people with certain health conditions, ice cream is not just a fun treat, but an absolutely essential component of a health diet.

What condition is that, and why can't it be satisfied with more healthy dairy choices?
posted by rocket88 at 12:15 PM on July 22, 2010


Shut up rocket88, I totally have that condition that guy was talkin' about.
posted by Mister_A at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Assuming that the quality of the meat is the same and that safe processing practices are used, I doubt there is much of one.

Different cuts = different part of the steer. Which means different distribution of particular "ingredients" (fat, protein, etc). "High class food" being healthier has more to do with the cuts of meat and the effort that went into trimming fat (or breeding some out) than mere marketing.

And if you think filet mignon is the same as burger meat, you're nuts.
posted by grubi at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2010


Metafilter: meatfilter.
posted by Zerowensboring at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2010


I don't know that there's any science to it, but it also seems to me, regarding filet mignon vs. burgers, that eating less of something that is completely awesome might satisfy one more than eating more of something that's only just OK. I know this has been discussed in the context of the so-called French paradox, but I don't know that there's a lot of serious scientific investigation going on there. But, in a nutshell, I think a lot of Americans replace quality with quantity in their diet. Well, not just diet, come to think of it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


REally? I've known several chubby to borderline-fat vegetarians and vegans. No morbidly obese ones though.

I've known a couple of large to obese vegetarians. The ones that decided to start eating meat again began noticeably losing weight after a few weeks. And they are baffled by this.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:35 PM on July 22, 2010


I've known a couple of large to obese vegetarians. The ones that decided to start eating meat again began noticeably losing weight after a few weeks. And they are baffled by this.

Dude, I know it was said before, but I will say it again: metabolism is weird.
posted by grubi at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2010


Also, aren't the people who know these things pretty much agreed at this point that it's sugar making us all fat and sick and that if you ruthlessly limit or eliminate it, you can eat (moderate amounts of) more or less anything else you want?

No. You can eat moderate amounts of more or less anything you want (within reason) and live a perfectly healthy and happy life. There are 2 problems here, though:

1) Many people don't pay attention to what's in their food, and so get way, way more than a "moderate" amount of sugar, salt, whatever.

2) Many people have a very skewed view of what "moderate" means.

By the way, we're not "all fat and sick" -- even some of us who don't avoid sugar like it's poison.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2010


What condition is that, and why can't it be satisfied with more healthy dairy choices?

I've worked in clinical nutrition for a few years now. Ice cream is a godsend for plenty of hospitalized, and non-hospitalized, patients.

This means anyone who has a condition that carries the risk of significant weight loss, malnutrition or wasting. Which is actually a lot of diseases, including stroke, recovery from cancer, HIV, recovery from eating disorders, the frail elderly, etc. There are more.

There are Metafilter members dealing with some of these things. Like I said, it's not as unusual as you think, and not everyone with these conditions is an inpatient.
posted by Ouisch at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


regarding filet mignon vs. burgers, that eating less of something that is completely awesome might satisfy one more than eating more of something that's only just OK.

This is true, but it also presupposes that "completely awesome" = filet mignon over burgers. That's just not true for everyone. Some people would genuinely prefer a burger, and might be better off for it.
posted by Ouisch at 1:32 PM on July 22, 2010


Sure, Ouisch; the general idea is that one might derive more satisfaction from a little of something more flavorful than a lot of something less flavorful.
posted by Mister_A at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we all at least agree that on any diet that restricts some family of foods, it is still possible to eat shittily?
posted by condour75 at 2:00 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people would genuinely prefer a burger, and might be better off for it.

Who? WHO? You tell me NOW. I WANT NAMES.
posted by grubi at 2:22 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well my name is Nic Wolff and I'd prefer a good burger over a filet mignon — but a decent rib-eye over any burger. (Except for the burger at Blackfish, the restaurant down the hill, which has a whole foie gras of duck on it. I'd prefer that delicious little fucker to world peace.)
posted by nicwolff at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2010


Well my name is Nic Wolff and I'd prefer a good burger over a filet mignon

*eyeing Nic Wolff angrily*

You just made the list.
posted by grubi at 2:57 PM on July 22, 2010


Just checking in as a plump, bikes-14-miles-a-day, carb-loving, cheese-loving, beer-loving, deeply happy vegetarian.
posted by Erroneous at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2010


More green is always better. I went from 230 to 165 and one of the biggest reason was reducing the amount of meat, most especially red meat in my diet. I love a good steak or a good burger once in a while, and it is still one of my most favorite treats I could possibly have. Vegans take thing to far, but too much red meat is simply not healthy.
posted by all4one at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2010


Maybe it's not that filet is better than burger meat-wise, but that what one eats with either could be better or worse depending. Usually people eat burgers with white bread rolls, not so much with filet. Could that have anything to do with it?
posted by zorrine at 2:45 PM on July 23, 2010


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