Depending on the study you consult, the numbers may vary a bit, but they all say that over 70% of Americans are overweight. To be clinically overweight means that our condition will likely at some point adversely affect our health, and our life, particularly if we are obese. There are many causes of being overweight.
Lack of exercise is a big one, especially for Americans. Granted, many of us have jobs that keep us busy, especially given the service economy so much of this country finds itself in (“desk jobs” are becoming the exception for the majority it seems); yet even so, this sort of activity rarely constitutes healthful physical exercise, like biking or swimming or even brisk walking. Given our love of video stimulation, whether movies, TV or gaming and computer entertainment in our spare time which only compounds the problem.
Genetics can also be considered, as some of us are small or large, yet for most of us our inherent size is only our baseline.
Then there is diet, which is for nearly everyone the primary issue. Given our culture’s reliance upon fast food, processed food and arguably even GMO foods--- diet can prove to be an important issue as well for people with no overweight condition.
What is becoming increasingly clear in the corporate consumer culture, gaining mainstream media attention, is the role of meat and animal product consumption in American diets.
To be thorough, there are environmental and human health issues stemming from the industrial production and consumption of meat: resources used to produce animal protein, along with the resulting waste products, “may be responsible for 18% of human- caused global greenhouse gas; Animals confined to US factory farms produce three times more waste than the entire US population which can contaminate water supplies and emit harmful gasses such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane."
Animal protein is very resource-intensive, for example, requiring up to 26 times more water to produce than a pound of soy protein; wastes cause outbreaks of salmonella, e.coli and similar pathogens, particularly in people living near production facilities; antibiotics are used in the animals in these facilities to try to keep them healthy. These antibiotics are now found in the groundwater, soil and air there, and in humans as well, contributing to antibiotic-resistant infections.
According to Dr. Michael Greger, HSUS Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture: “We don’t need to consume animals to be healthy--- just the opposite. Nutrition experts worldwide advise us to increase our consumption of plant-based foods and to cut down on saturated animal fat and cholesterol, which are found exclusively in meat, eggs and dairy products. Meat-free diets are recommended by the American Heart Association, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and U.S. dietary guidelines.
“The benefits are clear. People who eat fewer animal products have lower rates of obesity, dementia, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, gallstones, hemorrhoids, constipation, diverticulosis and appendicitis. People who eat completely meatless diets are half as likely to become hospitalized or require medications, and they’re less likely to need emergency medical procedures. Meat-free diets are even being used to reverse chronic diseases: opening clogged arteries, curing type 2 diabetes and alleviating obesity.
“Humane diets may also boost our longevity. The population with the longest life expectancy isn’t the Okinawa Japanese or the Mediterranean Sardinians, but the California Adventist vegetarians, who live up to 10 years longer than the average American and enjoy lower rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. Choosing animal-free foods is an easy, inexpensive way to shed unnecessary pounds, reduce cancer risk and improve heart health.”
Professor Maciej Henneberg of the University of Adelaide wrote, “In the analysis of obesity prevalence across 170 countries, we have found that sugar availability in a nation explains 50% of obesity variation while meat availability another 50%. After correcting for differences in nations’ wealth, calorie consumption, levels of urbanization and of physical inactivity, which are all major contributors to obesity, sugar availability remained an important factor, contributing independently 13%, while meat contributed another 13%.”
Youfa Wong, MD, PhD, MS at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Center for Human Nutrition, wrote in the “Journal of Human Obesity”: “While Americans had a high level of meat consumption per capita they lacked adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables and dairy… translates to approximately 4.6 servings of meat, 3 servings of fruit and vegetables, and 1.4 servings of dairy per day although Americans are recommended to consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of dairy a day. Participants consuming higher amounts of meat were nearly 27% more likely to be obese, compared to those who consumed low amounts. In fact, higher intakes of “all meat” and “other meat” products were associated with higher BMI (body mass index) and waist circumference, whereas intake of vegetables and fruits was inversely associated with BMI.”
“Our analysis based on the recent nationally representative data shows a consistent positive association between meat consumption and adiposity measure among U.S. adults.” There are many studies that have shown direct correlations between the consumption of meat and obesity, yet Dr. Wong asserts that some authors’ claims that it is the fat content of the meat that contributes to human obesity are incorrect: “On the contrary, we believe the protein in meat is directly contributing to obesity.”
The research for Professor Henneberg’s study was conducted by PhD student Wenpeng You, who recently published his findings in the “Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences”, he says, “There is a dogma that fats and carbohydrates, especially fats, are the major factors contributing to obesity.“
“Whether we like it or not, fats and carbohydrates in modern diets are supplying enough energy to meet our daily needs. Because meat protein is digested later than fats and carbohydrates, this makes the energy we receive from protein a surplus, which is then converted and stored as fat in the human body.”