Diabetes and Heart Disease
Red meat and type 2 diabetes: Is there a connection?
You may have heard that eating red meat is linked to some types of cancer and heart disease. But did you know that eating red meat has also been linked to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes in a number of studies?
Researchers from Harvard analyzed data from three long-term cohort studies: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Nurse’s Health Study II. Study participants completed multiple surveys every four years for 20 years about how much meat they ate. They also provided information about body weight, smoking, physical activity, and whether they had type 2 diabetes.
The study found that higher intakes of red meat over time were related to weight gain, higher calorie intake, and a lower diet quality score. Also, as intake of red meat increased, so did the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People who decreased the amount of red meat they ate by just a ½ serving per day had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The lesson here may not be that eating red meat itself causes type 2 diabetes, but rather red meat, higher calorie intake, and weight gain combined are a recipe for developing type 2 diabetes.
Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Go meatless a few days a week. Check out recipes at Meatless Monday and Fruits and Veggies: More Matter for recipe ideas.
- Keep a healthy weight. The American Diabetes Association offers some great tools to help you get started on achieving a healthy weight.
- Move more. Exercise really is medicine. Being active is essential to preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. Learn how to Get Started and how to Stay Fit.
- Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: Three cohorts of U.S. men and women. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(14):1328-1335. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633
Author: Courtney Cunningham, Nutrition student volunteer
Editor: Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D.N., Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition