The link between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes has been well established. So, cutting back to a few serves a week should help alleviate the risk right? Not according to this research.
Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with just two servings of red meat per week, according to a study from Harvard University.
The researchers also found replacing red meat with healthy plant-based protein sources, such as nuts and legumes, or modest amounts of dairy foods, was associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterised by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is caused by the pancreas’s inability to produce insulin (a glucose-controlling hormone) or an inability to use insulin effectively.
The main types of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes specifically, is a condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas.
The condition has strong genetic and family-related risk factors, but is also often associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors.
Red meat and diabetes
It’s long been known that overconsumption of red meat contributes to type 2 diabetes risk, but this study is the first to show just how little meat it actually takes to increase that risk.
The researchers looked at data from 216,695 participants, taken from several other studies. Participants’ diets were assessed with ‘food frequency’ questionnaires every two to four years, for as long as 36 years in some cases.
During this assessment time, more than 22,000 participants developed type 2 diabetes.
The data showed a strong link between red meat consumption, both processed and unprocessed, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Participants who ate the most red meat had a 62 per cent higher risk of diabetes compared to those who ate the least.
Each additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46 per cent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and each serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24 per cent greater risk.
The researchers also looked at the potential effects of substituting one daily serving of red meat with another protein source.
They found that substituting a serving of nuts and legumes was associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and substituting a serving of dairy products reduced risk by 22 per cent.
Professor Walter Willett, a co-author of the study, says the results show those who really want to avoid type 2 diabetes should stick to just one serving of red meat per week.
“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 optimise their health and wellbeing.”
How often do you eat red meat? Do you think you could survive on only one serve per week? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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