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Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Diabetes


Since the relationship between consumption of different types of red meats and risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) remains uncertain, a study published online (10 August 2011) in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.018978), was performed to evaluate the association between unprocessed and processed red meat consumption and incident T2D in US adults.


The study followed 37,083 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2006), 79,570 women in the Nurses’ Health Study I (1980-2008), and 87,504 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991–2005). Diet was assessed by validated food-frequency questionnaires, and data were updated every 4 years. Incident T2D was confirmed by a validated supplementary questionnaire.


Results showed that during 4,033,322 person-years of follow-up, 13,759 incident T2D cases were documented. After adjustment for age, BMI, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, both unprocessed and processed red meat intakes were positively associated with T2D risk in each cohort (all P-trend <0.001). The pooled hazards ratios (HRs) for a one serving/day increase of unprocessed, processed, and total red meat consumption were 1.12, 1.32, and 1.14, respectively. The results were confirmed by a meta-analysis (442,101 participants and 28,228 diabetes cases): the RRs were 1.19 and 1.51 for 100 g of unprocessed red meat and for 50 g of unprocessed red meat, respectively. The authors estimated that substitutions of one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy, and whole grains per day for one serving of red meat per day were associated with a 16–35% lower risk of T2D.


The authors concluded that the results suggest that red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of T2D.


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