Background: Excessive energy intake has been identified as a major contributor to the global obesity epidemic. However, it is not clear whether dietary patterns varying in their composition of food groups contribute. This study aims to determine whether differences in per capita availability of the major food groups could explain differences in global obesity prevalence.
Methods: Country-specific Body Mass Index (BMI) estimates (mean, prevalence of obesity and overweight) were obtained. BMI estimates were then matched to mean of three year-and country-specific availability of total kilocalories per capita per day, major food groups (meat, starch, fibers, fats and fruits). The per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and prevalence of physical inactivity for each country were also obtained. SPSS was used for log-transformed data analysis.
Results: Spearman analyses of the different major food groups shows that meat availability is most highly
correlated with prevalence of obesity (r = 0.666, p < 0.001) and overweight (r = 0.800, p < 0.001) and mean BMI (r = 0.656, p < 0.001) and that these relationships remain when total caloric availability, prevalence of physical inactivity and GDP are controlled in partial correlation analysis. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis indicates that meat availability is the most significant predictors of prevalence of obesity and overweight and mean BMI among the food groups. Scatter plot diagrams show meat and GDP adjusted meat are strongly correlated to obesity prevalence.
Conclusion: High meat availability is correlated to increased prevalence of obesity. Effective strategies to reduce meat consumption may have differential effects in countries at different stages of the nutrition transition.