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Study Shows Red Meat May Increase Risk Of Diabetes

August 11, 2011

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found a strong association with eating red meat on a daily basis and type 2 diabetes. The study also shows that substituting healthier proteins from nuts and low-fat dairy decreases the risk.

The researchers analyzed questionnaire responses from several studies spanning over twenty years. When combined, the studies had a total of 442,101 participants. 28,228 of these participants developed type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for age, BMI, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers found that a daily 3.53 ounce serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19% increased risk for type 2 diabetes. They also found that a serving half that size of processed meat was associated with a 51% increase.

The senior author of the study Frank Hu told USA Today’s Nanci Hellmich: “Clearly, processed meat is much worse than unprocessed meat for raising the risk but unprocessed red meat is not benign. This is the largest and most convincing data accumulated so far.”

“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,” Hu said in a press release.

The researchers discovered that substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21% lower risk, substituting low-fat dairy a 17% lower risk, and eating whole grains a 23% lower risk.

Diabetes affects about 350 million adults worldwide, most have type 2 diabetes that is associated with low activity levels, poor diet and obesity.

A spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Shalene McNeill told USA Today: “These are epidemiological studies, and they can’t identify cause and effect. They are identifying associations, and what we know from gold-standard research that does look at cause and effect is that higher protein diets that include beef are very effective for helping people manage their weight and balance their blood sugars “” both important factors for reducing your risk of developing diabetes.”

The study was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on August 10.

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