Red Meat Increases Type 2 Diabetes

nuts lowers risk of diabetesResearchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found in a huge study that eating red meat regularly increases the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, they found that replacing red meat in the diet with non-meat proteins significantly lowers incidence of type 2 diabetes.

The research was led by An Pan, PhD and Frank Hu, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health. The researchers followed 37,083 men for 20 years, 79,570 women for 28 years, and 87,504 women 14 years. In addition, they performed a meta-analysis review by combining their data with previous studies, to arrive at a massive total of 442,101 human subjects. Of this population, 28,228 developed type 2 diabetes during the period of study.

Diabetes rates around the world are at epidemic levels, according to Harvard researchers. Almost 350 million adults have diabetes worldwide, and over 25 million U.S. adults or 11% of U.S. adults have diabetes – most of which is type 2.

The study eliminated trends related to lifestyle and other dietary risk facts, as well as age and body mass index (BMI). In the final analysis, a average of 50 grams of processed meat per day increased diabetes incidence by 51%, while a 100 gram serving of unprocessed red meat per day increased diabetes incidence by 19%.

Dr. Hu explained the results in a press release by Harvard: “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. The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein.”

The Harvard press release also stated that this was the largest study of its kind to link red meat with diabetes – confirming the findings of other smaller studies. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, along with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The Harvard researchers suggested that processed red meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats, as well as unprocessed red meats should be “minimized” or “reduced.” They recommended replacement with healthier protein sources.

Healthier proteins, according to the researchers, include nuts, grains, beans and low-fat dairy.

The study also found that even substituting one serving of grains per day instead of meat protein lowered diabetes incidence by 23%. Substituting one serving with nuts reduced incidence by 21%, and low-fat dairy resulted in a 17% reduction.

This study confirms another Harvard study done last year, which found that meat consumption increased the risk of diabetes along with coronary heart disease and strokes. This study analyzed 20 clinical studies that met their quality review, which included 1,218,380 total human subjects. Among other findings, they found that red meat increased incidence of coronary heart disease by 42%.

Other research has found that type 2 diabetes is associated with a lack of exercise, obesity and diet.

“Our study clearly shows that eating both unprocessed and processed red meat—particularly processed—is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Pan was quoted saying. He also suggested that it was unfair to lump other healthier sources of protein together with the unhealthier red meats.


“Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of U.S. Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis,” An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hu, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online August 10, 2011.

Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation. 2010 Jun 1;121(21):2271-83.

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Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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