Background: The public have been educated that sugar intake should be minimized to avoid obesity, but no such recommendation regarding meat exists. We used FAO published comparable sugar and meat availability data to examine if they both contribute to obesity prevalence to the same extent.
Methods: Country-specific Body Mass Index (BMI) estimates of obesity and overweight were obtained. These were matched with country-specific per capita per day availability of major food groups (meat, sugar, starch crops, fibers, fats and fruits), total calories, per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP PPP), urbanization and physical inactivity prevalence. Fisher’s r-to-z transformation and Beta (B) range (B ± 2 Standard Errors) overlapping were used to test for potential differences between correlations and regressions results respectively. SPSS 22.0 was used for log-transformed data analysis.
Results: Pearson correlation showed that sugar and meat availability significantly correlated with obesity prevalence to the same extent (r=0.715, p<0.001 and r=0.685, p<0.001 respectively). These relationships remained in partial correlation analysis (r=0.359, p<0.001 and r=0.354, p<0.001 respectively) when controlling for calories availability, physical inactivity, urbanization and GDP PPP. Fisher's r-to-z transformation revealed no significant difference in Pearson correlation coefficients (z=-0.53, p=0.60), and partial correlation coefficients (z=-0.04, p=0.97) between sugar and meat availability with obesity prevalence.
Multiple linear regression analysis indicated that sugar and meat availability were the two most significant predictors of obesity prevalence in both Enter (B=0.455, SE=0.113, p<0.001 and B=0.381, SE=0.096, p<0.001, respectively) and Stepwise (B=0.464, SE=0.093, p<0.001 and B=0.433, SE=0.072, p<0.001, respectively) models. B ranges overlapping found in the Enter (0.289-0.573) and Stepwise (0.294-0.582) models showed sugar and meat availability correlated to obesity to the same extent with no statistically significant difference.
Conclusion: Sugar and meat availability comparably contribute to global obesity prevalence. Dietary guidelines should also advocate to minimize meat consumption to avoid obesity.