Red meat consumption linked to Type 2 diabetes risk

BOSTON — The consumption of processed red meat may pose an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health.

The “Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of U.S. Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis” study — led by An Pan, research fellow in the HSPH department of nutrition, along with senior author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH Frank Hu and colleagues — found that a a daily 100-g serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 19% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, while a 50-g serving of processed red meat (i.e., two slices of bacon, one hot dog or one sausage) was associated with a 51% increased risk. Similarly, patients that substituted red meat with a serving of such healthier proteins as low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains were associated a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (17%, 21% and 23%, respectively).

The authors pooled their data from three cohorts and analyzed questionnaire responses from a combined total of 204,157 patients. Additionally, HSPH researchers also conducted an updated meta-analysis, combining data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total of 442,101 patients, 28,228 of whom developed Type 2 diabetes during the study.

The data was adjusted for age, body mass index and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers noted.

“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,” Hu said. “The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein.”

The study was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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