There is a strong association between the consumption of red meat—particularly when the meat is processed—and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study. The study also shows that replacing red meat with healthier proteins, such as low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains, can significantly lower the risk.
An Pan, Frank Hu and colleagues from the HSPH analyzed questionnaire responses in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II. They also conducted an updated meta-analysis, combining data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total of 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study.
The researchers found that a daily 100-gram serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. They also found that one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat—50 grams (for example, one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon)—was associated with a 51 percent increased risk.
Symptoms of diabetes:
- Excessive thirst and appetite.
- Increased urination.
- Unusual weight gain or loss.
“Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide,” says Hu. Worldwide, diabetes has reached epidemic levels, affecting nearly 350 million adults. In the U.S. alone, more than 11 percent of adults over age 20—25.6 million people—have the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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