If you’re a fan of red meat, before you put that hot dog or steak on the grill - there is some bad news. A recent Harvard research study shows that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases dramatically with excess consumption of red meat.
In this long-term study, 140,000 healthcare professionals were followed for 12-16 years. Although their red meat consumption varied widely, on average these people ate 1 ½ servings a day.
Amazingly, increasing red meat consumption by as little as half a serving per day, or 1.5 ounces, raised the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in study participants by 48% over a four-year period when compared to those people who did not change their red meat eating habits.
On the other hand, people who curbed their red meat intake by a half a serving daily reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 14% over a ten-year period. However, those who reduced their red meat intake by the same amount over 4 years did not see any change in their risk.
Types of red meat included lunchmeat and hot dogs, as well as unprocessed red meat such as hamburger, steak and pork. However, the association with type 2 diabetes was stronger for processed meat, according to the study authors.
At the same time, they also point out that since their study was observational, clear-cut cause and effect relationships are hard to pin down.
Weight gain because of increased red meat consumption and other unhealthy eating habits may be one reason for the higher risk of diabetes.
Another reason may be too much iron. Iron prevents anemia, but too much iron is also a risk factor for diabetes.
Yet another reason could be sodium and nitrates present in processed meats.
Special interest groups and experts who commented on this study - such as the National Cattlemen’s Association - pointed out the positive nutritional benefits of lean beef in particular, such as providing the body with protein, zinc, iron, B-vitamins and minerals.
Others speculated that saturated fat in red meat may contribute to higher diabetes risk - and suggested that people who eat too much red meat typically also have poor diets, get insufficient exercise and have excess body fat, all risk factors for diabetes.
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