dietary restriction scoring for animal products
Figure 2. from the study

Concept of dietary restriction score (DRS) based on the frequency of consumption of animal-based products over the last 12 months based on nine items from the FFQ. Copyright icons: all icons by Smashicons.

Eating Fewer Animal Based Products Linked to Lower BMI

Researchers in Germany released the results of a study linking body mass index (BMI) to the frequency of eating animal products.

The study, involving almost 9000 people, looked at consumption of eggs and dairy as well as meat and fish.

It was found that the fewer portions of food from animal origin in a person's diet, the lower their BMI and thus their body weight.

The researchers believe that one reason for this could be the lower proportion of heavily processed foods in a more plant-based diet.

"Products that are excessively rich in fat and sugar are particularly fattening. They stimulate the appetite and delay the feeling of satiety. If you avoid animal foods, you consume fewer such products on average," explains Evelyn Medawar, first author of the underlying publication, which has now been published in the journal Nutrients.

In addition: Vegetarian food contains dietary fibre and has a positive effect on the microbiome in the intestine. This is another reason why they could fill you up earlier than those made from animal ingredients.

"People who eat predominantly vegetable foods may therefore absorb less energy," Medawar adds.

The researchers note that lifestyle factors such as more sport and greater health awareness could also play a decisive role.

Difference in Primary and Secondary Animal Products

The type of animal products a person eats also makes a difference.

If it is predominantly primary animal products, for example meat and fish, the person usually has a higher BMI than someone who eats primarily secondary animal products, like eggs, milk, and cheese. The correlation is statistically significant.

Medawar uses an example to illustrate what this could mean for nutrition:

"A person with a 1.2 point lower BMI on average either completely avoids certain animal products, such as the primary ones, and is on a vegetarian diet. Or she continues to eat meat and fish, but less often.”

Whether nutrition is ultimately the cause of lower body weight or whether other factors are responsible for it cannot be determined from the data in this study. A follow-up study to investigate further is planned.

Practical Steps Related to the Findings of this Study

There's already good evidence to show that eating less meat-based and more plant-based food benefits health. Now evidence is mounting that moving towards a more plant based diet is also beneficial for weight.

Here's some resources to help with making changes for yourself and those you take care of:

12 Easy Meat Free Meals to Make at Home

Eat Less Meat 7-Day Diet Plan

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Evelyn Medawar, Cornelia Enzenbach, Susanne Roehr, Arno Villringer, Steffi G. Riedel-Heller 5 A. Veronica Witte. Less Animal-Based Food, Better Weight Status: Associations of the Restriction of Animal-Based Product Intake with Body-Mass-Index, Depressive Symptoms and Personality in the General Population. Nutrients 2020, 12(5), 1492;

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