Recently published studies have found protein in meat to be the culprit cause of obesity and health epidemics around the world.
The University of Adelaide in Australia conducted a Public Health Arena Ecological Analysis on the prevalence of obesity in 190 countries.
They found that meat consumption linked to the prevalence of obesity significantly, despite income, calorie consumption, and inactivity being the same.
Harvard University analysed the diets of participants, totalling to more than 3.5 million person-years, over a 30 year period.
Researchers found lower blood pressure, favourable lipid profiles, improved insulin sensitivity, and a lower mortality rate among participants who mainly consumed plant-based protein.
“High animal protein intake is associated with higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which has been linked to worse health out-comes” Harvard University researcher Mingyang Song said.
This could be a result of the modern human diet, suggested Head of the Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit at the University of Adelaide, Professor Maciej Henneberg.
Until the dawn of agriculture around 10, 000 years ago, “there was nothing much else to eat but animal protein” Professor Henneberg said.
“Animal protein was the major source of food and therefore, calories for all humans” which has made “our physiology very well adapted to meat digestion and the extraction of energy from meat” he said.
However, the modern diet has made it hard for the body to break down animal protein due to the inclusion of mixed nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats, along with protein, Henneberg said.
Carbohydrates and fats are quickly absorbed, digested, and provided for energy.
On the other hand, when consuming animal protein, the body goes through a long process of breaking down the protein into energy.
“Eventually, amino acids, from a long process of meat digestion, arrive in the cells, they are often surplus to energy needs, and if those pyruvates are surplus to energy needs… they are stored as fat” Henneberg said.
As a result of the study, Harvard researchers recommended animal protein from red meat be minimised to once or twice a week or to 100g or less per day.