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Plant protein, animal protein and fibre intakes among the Belgian population and its relationship to obesity and waist-circumference.

grant holder
Prof. Dr. Stefaan De Henauw
Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Belgium.

Aim: to assess the dietary intakes of fibre, animal protein and plant protein within a Belgian population and whether these dietary components influence body weight and waist circumference.

Methodology: Data from 3,083 Belgian men and women aged 15 years and above were extracted from the Belgian National Food Consumption Survey of 2004. Analysis was undertaken to determine intakes of animal protein, vegetable protein and fibre as well as body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) measurements. Dietary intakes were assessed using two non-consecutive 24-hour recalls.

Results: Animal protein intakes were significantly greater than plant proteins (47g vs. 25g daily). Meat and meat products contributed to over half the animal protein intake whilst cereals and cereal products were the main sources of plant proteins in the Belgian diet. Legume and soya protein accounted for less than 0.5% of the total daily protein intake and just over 1% of the plant protein intake. The average fibre intake of 17.8g per day was significantly below the 30g daily recommendations (40g for 15-18 year old males), with men consuming more than women (21g/d vs. 17.3g/d, p<0.001). Lower educated males and higher educated females reported the highest fibre intakes. The main fibre contributors were cereals and cereal products (34%), fruit and vegetables (excluding potatoes and root vegetables) (29%), potatoes and other root vegetables (18.6%). Legumes provided little fibre to the Belgian diet, contributing less than <1%.

Animal protein intakes were positively associated with BMI and waist circumference (WC) – but in men only. However, plant protein intakes were inversely associated with BMI and WC in both men and women (BMI – males: β= -0.036; p<0.001; females: β= -0.046, p=0.001 and WC – males: β= -0.137; p<0.001; females: β= -0.096, p=0.024). WC was also inversely associated with total fibre intake but positively associated with fruit fibre intake.

Conclusions: Animal proteins continue to dominate the Belgian diet with very little legume and soy intakes. Fibre intake remains significantly lower than recommendations. Following a diet higher in plant proteins may help with weight control and a healthier WC whilst higher total fibre intakes could positively benefit WC.


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  2. Lin Y, Huybrechts I, Vandevijvere S et al. Fibre intake among the Belgian population by sex-age and sex-education groups and its association with BMI and waist circumference. British J Nutrition 2011;105:1692-1703.