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More Evidence That Red Meat Ups Diabetes Risk


Added confirmation also indicates that increased weight is not the only cause of a greater risk.

Red meat consumption has been consistently associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Now there’s more confirmation that increasing red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of the disease and that increased weight is not the only cause of a greater risk, according to 3 prospective cohort studies.

“Red meat consumption has been related to weight gain, and this is definitely a potential mechanism of increased risk of diabetes,” An Pan, PhD, of the National University of Singapore, told ConsultantLive. “Other factors could be the high saturated fat content, the high amount of heme-iron, and L-carnitine. For processed meats, the high amount of sodium and nitrites are potential factors that increase diabetes risk.”

Dr Pan and colleagues analyzed data from 3 Harvard group studies and monitored more than 26,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, more than 48,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, and more than 74,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diets were assessed using food frequency questionnaires.

During more than 1.9 million person-years of follow-up, the researchers documented 7540 incident cases of type 2 DM. “Increasing red meat intake during a 4-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus during the subsequent 4 years in each cohort,” they wrote.

Compared with a group in which there was no change in red meat intake, the risk was elevated 48% in those who increased red meat intake of more than 0.50 servings per day in the subsequent 4-year period. Reducing red meat consumption by more than 0.50 servings per day from baseline to the first 4 years of follow-up was associated with a 14% lower risk during the subsequent entire follow-up. The authors noted that this observational study cannot infer causality.

These data are valuable for primary care physicians who are considering strategies to decrease the risk of type 2 DM developing in their patients, said Dr An. “For physicians, there are some easy tests to assess an individual’s diabetes risk. Perhaps the physician can ask some simple questions regarding diet, for example, how many red meat products the patient is eating regularly,” he said. If a patient eats a lot of red meat, he suggested a referral to a dietician to help enact changes to a healthier dietary pattern.

Dr An suggested that primary care physicians make some dietary recommendations in terms of protein consumption. “First, recommend that patients do not increase their red meat intake, and then try to limit red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, and switch to plant-based food choices, such as nuts, legumes, and whole grains, and low-fat dairy and more fish and poultry,” he said.

Dr An’s message to primary care physicians goes along the lines of “first, heal thyself.” He said, “Maybe we should think about our own dietary habit first, and try to follow the recommendations.”

The researchers published their results in the June 17, 2013, JAMA Internal Medicine.Media Links

USA Today, “Red-meat intake linked to increased risk of diabetes”

National Public Radio, “Hot Dogs, Bacon And Red Meat Tied To Increased Diabetes Risk”

Time, “Adding Red Meat to Your Diet Linked to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes”

Forbes, “Researchers Flesh Out The Red Meat-Type 2 Diabetes Connection”

Yahoo!News, “Eating more red meat tied to higher diabetes risk”

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