Study identifies red meat and diabetes link

A new study has claimed there is a link between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes (T2DM).

The study, which was published on Monday (17 June) in the Jama Internal Medicine Journal and entitled ‘Changes in Red meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus’, documented 7,540 incidents of T2DM. It claimed that people were at risk of getting the strain of diabetes even if they consumed relatively low amounts of red meat.  

It suggested that increased consumption of red meat over time was linked to a heightened risk of T2DM, but said the association was partly to do with body weight. “Our results add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention,” researchers said.

A commentary on the study said the authors had “demonstrated that consuming more red meat was also associated with weight gain”. But it went on to say that after taking the factor of increased body weight away, the risk of getting T2DM was reduced, but not eliminated. It said this indicated “that increased weight is not the only cause of a greater risk of T2DM associated with red meat consumption”.

The commentary also detailed that the label of ‘red meat’ may be misleading in the report, as “many cuts of chicken have more myoglobin”, as does pork and said that tuna had almost twice as much myoglobin as beef. Myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in muscle tissue. It further stated that: “There is no evidence that the amount or type of protein in meat has an effect on insulin resistance or the risk of T2DM.”

Researchers, however, added that increasing red meat intake during a four-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of T2DM, compared to a group of people who did not increase their red meat intake. An intake of more than 0.50 servings per day increased exposure to T2DM by 48%.

Decreasing consumption of red meat by 0.50 servings per day over a four-year period reduced the risk of getting T2DM by 14%, the study suggested.

Researchers followed up to 26,357 men in a Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 48,709 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and a further 74,077 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diets were assessed, with questionnaires updated every year, while factors such as age, family history, race, marital status, initial red meat consumption, smoking status and changes in other lifestyle elements were also taken into account.