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Jun 26, 2013

Red Meat Consumption Increases Diabetes Risk

Recent study shows upping the amount of red meat in your diet increases risk for type 2 diabetes.

Increasing consumption of red meat may increase risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This study is among the largest of its kind, using data from three separate groups: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study conducted between 1986 and 2006, and the Nurses’ Health Study II conducted between 1991 and 2007. Together, the JAMA study tracked the dietary patterns of 149,000 men and women for as long as 16 years and collected information on their health outcomes, including diabetes.

After analysis, researchers found that increasing red meat consumption during a four-year period significantly increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the following four years. For example, individuals increasing their red meat consumption by a half-serving per day were 48% more likely to develop diabetes in the next four years compared to those who didn’t change their red meat intake. On the other hand, those who reduced their red meat consumption by a half-serving a day had 14% lower risk of developing diabetes compared with those who didn’t change their red meat consumption. Not surprisingly, researchers also found that individuals who increased their red meat consumption were more likely to gain weight as a result of these dietary changes, which explains some of the increased diabetes risk.  

These findings contribute to a large body of evidence that link red meat consumption to increased risk for both heart disease and diabetes. We don’t know exactly why red meat increases diabetes risk, but experts suggest that it has something to do with the high amount of sodium nitrates and iron found in red and processed meats. Plus, red meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which increase risk for heart disease.

So should we give up red meat altogether? More and more research suggests that we should limit our consumption of red meat and incorporate more fish, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy into our diet. For those who love red meat, reducing your consumption or simply choosing lean cuts of beef can help make your diet more heart-healthy and help reduce risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Is red meat bad for my heart?
  • Red meat contains high levels of fat and cholesterol, which can clog our arteries and increase risk for heart disease. Research also suggests that a substance contained in red meat, called carnitine, may increase levels of the chemical TMAO, which increases cardiovascular risk. To promote heart health, it’s important to limit consumption of red meat to once a week or less and maintain a balanced diet full of lean protein, fresh vegetables and whole grains.
  • How often should I eat red meat?
  • In general, red meat should be consumed rarely—about one serving a week or less. Although protein is an important part of a balanced diet, lean meats, fish and nuts are a better choice than red meat to promote heart health.

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