Researchers warn: Red meat promotes diabetes

Regular consumption of red meat could be linked to type 2 diabetes, according to a study.

According to a study, those who regularly eat red meat increase their risk of diabetes. (Source: industryview/Getty Images)

Eating red meat may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even two servings per week are too much, say the US researchers.

An observational study conducted at Harvard TH Chan Harvard School of Public Health has found links between red meat consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the researchers, steaks, schnitzels and sausages should be on the menu no more than once a week. They recommend replacing meat consumption with plant-based protein sources such as nuts, legumes and soy.

Evaluation is based on data from over 216,000 participants

Previous research has already shown that consumption of sausages and other processed pork and beef products in particular is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The current study examined this connection using the health data of a total of 216,695 participants. Data come from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), NHS II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS).

Using questionnaires, the eating habits of the participants were asked at regular intervals over several decades. During this period, more than 22,000 participants developed type 2 diabetes.

The risk of diabetes increases with the amount of meat

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that study participants who consumed the most red meat had a 62 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed the least. Each additional daily serving of processed red meat increased the risk of disease by an additional 24 percent.

Maximum one serving of red meat per week

“Our results support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting red meat consumption, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat,” said study author Xiao Gu in a press release from the Harvard School of Public Health. The researcher recommends consuming no more than one serving of red meat per week, which is about 80 grams.

Replace animal protein with plant protein

The study also examined the impact of replacing a daily serving of red meat with another source of protein. The result: Replacing a portion of nuts and legumes was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, replacing one serving of red meat with a dairy product was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

How should the study be classified?

The Harvard study is an observational study and as such is serious. Their implementation and evaluation follows the criteria of evidence-based medicine. However, the study does not prove that eating red meat directly leads to diabetes. Only a connection between consumption and the risk of developing diabetes has been proven.

Whether high meat consumption is often associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes, was not taken into account. This puts the significance of the study into perspective.

A weak point of the study is that 80 percent of those surveyed are women and men are therefore underrepresented. In addition, the study is based on the participants’ own statements and their subjective assessment of their eating habits.

Healthy lifestyle: These tips will help prevent diabetes

The German Diabetes Foundation (DDS) points out that a health-conscious lifestyle significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies even show that if you have diabetes in its early stages, it is possible to reverse the disease by changing your lifestyle.

The DDS experts have therefore put together an 11-point plan. It is supposed to help prevent diabetes.

  • 1. Pay attention to your normal weight : Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. A large abdominal circumference is particularly dangerous because it is a sure sign that fat has accumulated around and in internal organs.
  • 2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day : Physical activity has a positive effect on metabolism. The cells respond better to insulin and absorb more sugar from the blood. This causes blood sugar levels to drop. Long-term sugar levels can also be reduced through regular exercise.
  • 3. Eat a balanced diet: Make sure your food contains lots of vitamins and minerals and not too much fat. Save on salt and sugar. According to studies, plant-based diets can prevent type 2 diabetes. Fiber helps against disturbed sugar and fat metabolism and improves the effect in the body.
  • 4. Avoid hidden fats : There is a lot of fat, especially in sausages and processed meat. Many types of cheese also have an excessively high fat content. They should therefore not be on the menu every day and are better consumed in low-fat versions.
  • 5. Avoid soft drinks : Lemonade, cola and fruit juices are sugar bombs and increase blood sugar and insulin levels. This not only promotes obesity, but also insulin resistance and thus promotes diabetes.
  • 6. Drink coffee : Studies show that coffee can have a protective effect. Four to a maximum of seven cups of coffee daily – even caffeine-free – can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25 percent.
  • 7. Alcohol only in moderation : Alcohol also increases blood sugar levels and damages the nerves and leads to alcohol-induced fatty liver disease. Health-friendly amounts are 10 grams (a small glass of beer) for women and 20 grams (a 0.2 glass of wine) for men.
  • 8. Quit smoking : Nicotine is a significant diabetes risk factor. Anyone who gives up smoking reduces their risk of the metabolic disease by 30 to 50 percent.
  • 9. Pay attention to your blood pressure values : Normal blood pressure reduces the risk of dangerous complications from diabetes. On the other hand, high blood pressure in combination with increased blood sugar levels and a lipid metabolism disorder leads to damage to the blood vessels.
  • 10. Get enough sleep : Lack of sleep and sleep disorders have a negative impact on blood sugar levels, insulin action and insulin secretion. Therefore, make sure you get enough sleep and seek medical help if you have sleep disorders.
  • 11. Avoid stress : Stress hormones cause blood sugar levels to rise. Therefore, try to reduce unnecessary sources of stress and ensure sufficient relaxation in everyday life.

However, when developing type 2 diabetes, there is also a risk factor that cannot be influenced. It concerns the genetic predisposition to the disease. People whose mother or father has type 2 diabetes have an approximately 1.7-fold increased risk of developing it themselves over the course of their lives. If both parents are affected, the risk is increased almost threefold.


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