According to new research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating just two servings of red meat per week may greatly raise the chance of acquiring type 2 diabetes.
The risk of developing diabetes can be reduced by switching from red meat to plant-based protein sources like nuts and legumes, according to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Based on the results, it’s recommended that you eat no more than two portions of red meat each week and switch your focus to plant-based proteins instead.
Red Meat Consumption and Diabetes Risk
Over 30 years of health records from three large studies were evaluated for 216,695 participants. About 22,000 participants in the study population were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The risk of acquiring diabetes was found to be 62% higher among individuals who consumed the most red meat compared to those who consumed the least.
However, the correlation between eating processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats and an elevated risk was higher than the one between eating unprocessed red meat.
Each daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46% higher risk of developing diabetes, while each serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24% higher risk.
Substituting less unhealthy proteins for red meat had a buffering effect. A decreased risk of developing diabetes was associated with consuming just one serving per day of nuts, legumes, or dairy.
In a release, principal author and Harvard postdoctoral research fellow Xiao Gu said, “Our findings strongly support that limiting intake of red meat and instead choosing mainly plant sources of protein will help reduce an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its complications.”
Study Methods and Implications
Self-reported dietary data were corrected for potential mistakes, and other lifestyle factors that could affect the results were taken into account.
The results provide further confirmation of the negative effects of red meat on metabolic health. Red meat’s high saturated fat content is a potential contributor to type 2 diabetes risk factors such inflammation, insulin resistance, and insulin secretion impairment.
High quantities of advanced glycation end products, generated during processing at high heat, and additional preservatives like nitrates and salt are thought to be particularly detrimental in processed meats.
The Mediterranean diet has been cited as an example of a healthy diet that limits red meat consumption by researchers. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and increase life expectancy in a number of studies.
Based on their results, the authors recommend:
- Limiting red meat to no more than 2 servings per week, with 1 serving preferable
- Choosing plant-based protein sources like nuts, legumes, and dairy instead of red meat
“Adopting this dietary strategy will help reduce individuals’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its complications, which will ultimately improve the health and well-being of people worldwide,” according to Gu.
Background on Diabetes Prevalence
The body’s sugar metabolism is impacted by type 2 diabetes. Obesity, poor diet, inactivity, and genetic predisposition are all risk factors. When unchecked, diabetes can cause serious health problems such renal failure, heart disease, and nerve damage.
The CDC reports that 11.3 percent of the US population, or more than 37 million people, have diabetes. High blood sugar levels are a symptom of prediabetes, which affects another one-third of adults.
The diabetes epidemic, experts warn, is expanding at a frightening rate. According to the CDC, in 2017, the entire cost of diabetes in the United States, including medical bills and lost productivity, was over $327 billion.
With diabetes on the rise, it is vital for public health initiatives to comprehend how dietary decisions like red meat consumption impact diabetes risk. According to the authors, additional research is needed to determine the safe upper limit for red meat consumption and its effect on preventing diabetes.
They suggest people make little adjustments to their diets in the meantime, such as replacing red meat with mixed nuts or chickpeas twice weekly. There may be immediate and long-term benefits to taking baby steps.