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How Red Meat Impacts Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Red meat and type 2 diabetes

If you eat red meat but are considering cutting back or even eliminating it from your diet, here’s a new reason to make one of these choices. Follow-up results from three large studies show that eating more red meat significantly increases your risk of type 2 diabetes while cutting back reduces your risk.

Is red meat on your menu?

Prior to this study, which appears at Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, it’s been shown that eating processed and unprocessed red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Indeed, previous studies have shown that eating red meat has also been linked to an increased risk of the following diseases as well:

And more

Investigators from the National University of Singapore evaluated data from three Harvard group studies that involved about 149,000 men and women. Rather than analyze data from just one point in time, as previous studies have done, this study looked at data from a four-year follow-up.

The authors discovered the following:

  • 7,540 cases of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were documented
  • Individuals who increased their intake of red meat during the four years had an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Compared with individuals who did not increase their consumption of red meat, those who upped their intake of red meat by more than one-half serving per day had a 48 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Participants who reduced their red meat consumption by more than one-half serving per day had a 14 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes during the follow-up
  • The association between eating red meat and type 2 diabetes was mediated in part by body weight.

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Can you kick the red meat habit?
Results of this study support and extend the findings of previous research linking the consumption of red meat and type 2 diabetes. Taking it one step further, numerous studies have pointed out that a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet, or even a partly vegetarian diet, can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

For example, results of the Adventist Health Study-2 were recently published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. More than 41,000 adults free of diabetes at the beginning of the study were followed for two years.

Type 2 diabetes developed in 0.54 percent of vegans, 1.08% of lacto ovo vegetarians (they eat dairy and eggs), 1.29 percent of pesco vegetarians (eat fish), 0.92 percent of semi-vegetarians, and 2.12 percent of non-vegetarians.

Some medical experts report that a vegetarian diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes, as explained by Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.

Eating processed or unprocessed red meat plays a role in the risk of type 2 diabetes. Given the findings of this latest study as well as previous research, individuals may want to evaluate their red meat consumption and weigh their risk of type 2 diabetes.

Pan A et al. Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: three cohorts of US men and women. JAMA Internal Medicine 2013; 173(11): 1-8
Tonstad S et al. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 2013 Apr; 23(4): 292-99

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