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Can red meat increase risk of type 2 diabetes?

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in the States has suggested a strong link between the consumption of red meat and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The findings, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that replacing red meat with other proteins such as low-fat dairy, nuts and whole grains can help to reduce the risk.

The study was led by An Pan, a research fellow in the HSPH Department of Nutrition. Researchers analysed questionnaires from 37,083 men followed for 20 years in the American Health Professionals Follow-Up Study; 79,570 women followed for 28 years in the Nurse’s Health Study I; and 87,504 women followed for 14 years in the Nurse’s Health Study II. The researchers combined data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study.

After adjusting for lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers found that a daily serving of 100 grammes of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. They also found that one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat, such as bacon and sausages, was associated with a 51 percent increased risk.

Results showed that substituting the daily serving of red meat with nuts was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, substituting low-fat dairy with a 17 percent lower risk, and substituting whole grains, a 23 percent lower risk.

Based on these results, the researchers suggest that where possible, red meat should be replaced with healthier choices such as nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish or beans.

Azmina Govindji RD MBDA, Registered Dietitian and TV Nutritionist and member of the DRWF Editorial Advisory Board said, ‘Eating for diabetes is all about balance and too much of any food isn’t a good idea. This research and other studies do suggest that large portions of red meat regularly are not conducive to good health, and processed meat in particular has been linked to certain types of cancer. Nutrition is an evolving science and new research helps us to improve our understanding of food and health. The bottom line? Vary your diet, watch your portion size of all foods but in particular processed and fatty meat, which can be high in saturated fat and salt. There is a wealth of research that supports the value of eating more plant-based foods, so replacing meat with vegetarian sources of protein such as beans, pulses, tofu and nuts makes good sense whether you have diabetes or not.’

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Published in Diabetes and diet
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