Meat Based Diet Associated With Greater Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Investigators for a large Chinese Health Study found a higher consumption of red meat and poultry to be correlated with greater type 2 diabetes risk.

More than 63,000 individuals, aged 45 to 74, participated the study and were followed for an average of 11 years.

The researchers found those in the top quartile for consumption of red meat and poultry had a 23 percent and 15 percent increased diabetes risk, respectively. There was no increased risk associated with the consumption of fish, or shellfish.

The study also looked at the role dietary heme-iron plays in diabetes development. Heme-iron is found in both red meats and poultry.

After adjusting for heme-iron content, researchers discovered that red meat was still associated with greater diabetes risk, but poultry was not. This implies that chemicals in red meat other than heme-iron may be responsible for the higher risk, but that heme-iron is likely the diabetes risk factor in poultry.

Earlier Western studies also concluded that higher red meat intake, and high heme-iron dietary levels were correlated with diabetes risk. The Chinese study demonstrates that chemicals in red meat other than heme-iron may be involved, and also suggests chicken parts with lower heme-iron content, such as breast meat, could be healthier than higher heme-iron parts, such as chicken thighs.

The investigators do not advocate that people remove meat from their diet entirely, but hope their study will help people make food choices that lower their risk for disease.

“The findings affirm…recommendations to consume red meat in moderation, and that a healthy and balanced diet should contain sufficient and varied protein sources, including healthier alternatives to red meat such as fish, tofu and legumes,” says Dr Annie Ling, Director, Policy, Research and Surveillance Division of Singapore’s Health Promotion Board.

Source: Duke-NUS Medical School
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

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