Posted on Oct 19, 2023, 7 p.m.
The consumption of red meat has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study also found that cutting back on red meat and replacing it with plant-based sources of protein like nuts, legumes, or modest amounts of dairy foods was associated with a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D).
"Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat," said first author Xiao Gu, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition.
Previous research has found links between the consumption of red meat and the risk of T2D, this study adds a greater certainty about the association due to the findings being based on analysis of a large number of T2D cases among participants that were followed for an extended period of years. Findings have significant implications due to the rates of T2D increasing rapidly around the world which is concerning not only because of the serious burden it causes but also due to it being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, certain cancers, and dementia.
Data was analyzed from 216,695 participants for the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), NHS II, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), in which participant diet was assessed every 2-4 years for up to 36 years. During this time more than 22,000 participants developed T2D, and based on their findings, the consumption of red meat including processed and unprocessed red meat was strongly associated with an increased risk of T2D.
According to the researchers, those who ate red meat had a 62% higher risk of developing T2D compared to those who ate the least, every additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46% greater risk, and every additional serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Substituting one daily serving of red meat with a serving of nuts and legumes was associated with a 30% lower risk of T2D, and substituting with a serving of dairy products was associated with a 22% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also noted that in addition to the health benefits, cutting back on red meat for plant-based protein sources could help to reduce greenhouse emissions and provide other environmental benefits.
"Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving per week of red meat would be reasonable for people wishing to optimize their health and wellbeing," said senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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