Eating red meat may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, study warns

Eating more than one serving of red meat each week may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes — and the danger increases with every additional weekly serving.

This is the conclusion of a team of researchers led from Harvard University, who also found that the risk can be reduced by replacing red meat with healthy plant-based protein sources.

Paper author and epidemiologist Dr Xiao Gu said: “Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat.”

The research builds on past works that found a link between red meat and diabetes risk — adding a greater deal of certainty thanks to the large study cohort and long follow-up period.

It is estimated that more than half-a-million people worldwide are living with type 2 diabetes — with the disease being a major risk factor for conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and kidney disease.

In the study, Gu and colleagues analyzed health data on 216,695 people enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, its successor, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Participants were surveyed every two–four years about their diet, for a maximum of up to 36 years. During this period, more than 22,000 subjects developed type 2 diabetes.

The team found that the consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat was strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, the participants who ate the most red meat had a 62 percent higher risk of developing diabetes as compared to those who ate the least meat.

According to the researchers, every additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and every extra daily serving of unprocessed red meat a 24 percent greater risk.

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Paper co-author Professor Walter Willett — a Harvard epidemiologist — said: “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.”

The researcher’s analysis also found that replacing one daily serving of red meat with nuts and legumes was associated with a 30 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes risk, while switching to a serving of dairy products was associated with a 22 percent lower risk.

The team added that — alongside the health benefits — ditching red meat would also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change.

The full findings of the study were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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