Regular red and processed meat consumption of more than 5 servings a week is a significant risk factor for the development of type-2 diabetes according to several research studies.
One of the largest studies on the link between meat consumption and diabetes risk was published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2004. It involved the study of 37,309 initially healthy women aged over 45 who completed a food questionnaire in 1993 and were then followed for an average of 8.8 years.
At the conclusion of the study, 1,558 (4.2%) new cases of type-2 diabetes were diagnosed. After adjusting for factors such as total energy intake, BMI, smoking, and exercise levels, the researchers found that those women who consumed the most red meat (5 or more servings a week) were 29% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes than those who consumed less than 1 serving of red meat a week.
Processed meat consumption was found to be even more strongly linked to type-2 diabetes. Those who consumed 5 or more servings of processed meat a week were 38% more likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed less than 1 serving a week while those who consumed 2 to 4 servings of processed meat per week were 27% more likely to develop diabetes.
Hamburger meats, bacon, and hot dogs were the specific types of meat that were most associated with type-2 diabetes risk.
A second study published in the journal Diabetes Care found a similar link between meat consumption and type-2 diabetes in men. That study found that total processed meat consumption of more than 5 servings a week increased diabetes risk by 46% compared to those who consumed processed meats less than once a month however no link was found between red meat consumption and diabetes risk in that study.
Both red and processed meat contain preservatives and various other chemicals which may be responsible for the observed increased in the incidence of type-2 diabetes. Nitrates and nitrites are used in the process of curing meats and have been associated with an increased risk of diabetes in some animal studies.
Red meats tend to be high in both saturated fats and cholesterol. While the evidence is mixed, some studies have found an association between the consumption of saturated fats and/or cholesterol and a higher risk of type-2 diabetes.
Finally, most red meats are rich in iron and some studies have found evidence of a link between higher than normal iron levels in the body and an increased risk of type-2 diabetes.
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