Red Meat and Diabetes?

June 28, 2013

Could red meat be a culprit in Type 2 Diabetes? Find out what researchers are saying here.

We are all well aware of the connection between sugary snacks and drinks as well as increased body weight to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, but now researchers have found another possible culprit: red meat.
A study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA found that red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.  Researchers tracked changes in meat-eating habits, using data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study, which include about 100,000 people.
After analyzing food frequency questionnaires, researchers found that among those who started eating more red meat, about 3.5 more servings per week, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased by almost 50 percent (during 4 years of follow-up). On the other hand, in those who decreased their consumption, the risk of developing diabetes dropped by about 14 percent during a 10-year follow-up.  Findings held solid even after controlling for other variables such as weight.
Confirming findings of previous studies, researchers also found that processed red meats such as hot dogs and deli meats were more strongly associated with the risk of diabetes.
Researchers are not clear on the exact mechanism or mechanisms behind the association but do have a few theories. One is in regards to iron overload, which sets the stage for insulin resistance. Another is nitrates, especially in processed meat, which have been shown to possibly damage the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. More research is needed to pin down the actual cause and mechanisms behind the association.
Eating a varied and balanced diet, as well as meat in moderation is key. Filling your plate with colorful vegetables and keeping meat servings to the size of the palm of your hand is another good trick. Choosing the highest quality meat (look for grass fed or pasture raised) is also a good rule of thumb – always read labels for added and unnecessary ingredients.