NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Being a little less carnivorous may help you stay slim, according to a European study.
Researchers from Imperial College London found that avid meat eaters gained more weight over 5 years than those who ate less meat but the same amount of calories. When the researchers looked at different types of meat, they found the strongest association with weight gain was poultry, followed by processed meats and red meat.
"Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management," the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (link.reuters.com/typ58m).
The research involved more than 100,000 men and 270,000 women from 10 European countries who took part in a study of cancer and nutrition and other lifestyle factors.
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.
Amongst the nations surveyed, Greeks ate the least meat, with men eating about 200 calories a day and women 140 calories.
Over a 5-year follow-up period, both men and women gained about a pound a year on average, although women gained a little less.
But the researchers found the more meat a person ate, the more they gained. For every additional 250 grams of meat a person ate daily -- which is the equivalent of a half-pound, 450-calorie steak-- their 5-year weight gain would be 4.4 pounds greater.
Based on the findings, a person who cut their meat consumption by 250 grams daily, or about half a pound, could conceivably reduce their 5-year weight gain by around 4 pounds.
The researchers led by Dr. Anne-Claire Vergnaud said while this is a relatively small amount of weight from an individual's point of view, gaining an average of 4 pounds in 5 years "could have an important effect from a population perspective."
Reporting by Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith