Eating red meat - especially processed products such as hot dogs - increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study warns. It also found that you can significantly lower your diabetes risk by replacing red meat with healthier proteins, such as nuts, whole grains or low-fat dairy products.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers looked at 20 years of data from men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 28 years of data from women in the Nurses' Health Study I, and 14 years of data from women in the Nurses' Health Study II, which involved more than 200,000 participants in all.
They combined that data with data from other studies that involved a total of 442,101 people, including 28,228 who developed diabetes while participating in a study.
After adjusting for lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers determined that a daily 100g serving (about the size of a deck of cards) of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
How to lower your diabetes risk
A daily serving of 50g of processed meat - equivalent to one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon - was associated with a 51% increased risk of diabetes.
Among people who ate one daily serving of red meat, substituting one serving of whole grains per day reduced the risk of diabetes by 23%. Substituting nuts resulted in a 21% lower risk, and substituting a low-fat dairy product, a 17% lower risk.
The study appears online and in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide," senior author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology, said in a Harvard news release. "The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein."
Current US guidelines that include red meats in the "protein foods" group along with fish, nuts, beans and poultry should be revised to distinguish red meat from the healthier protein sources, the authors said in the release.
The U.S. National Diabetes Education Program outlines ways to prevent diabetes.
SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, Aug. 10, 2011
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