Eating two servings of meat from mammals per week can increase risk for type II diabetes by 62 percent, and the more meat you eat, the greater your chance of developing diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr, October 19, 2023). Replacing meat from mammals (“red meat”) with a healthful plant-based diet primarily of vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans reduces diabetes risk. Harvard researchers used data from the Nurses Health Study (NHS), NHS II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) to follow 216,695 participants for as long as 36 years. During that time, 22,761 developed insulin-resistant diabetes. Each daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46 percent higher risk for becoming diabetic and each added daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24 percent increased risk.
For this review, a serving of unprocessed red meat was three ounces of pork, beef or lamb, while a serving of processed red meat was one ounce of bacon or two ounces of hot dog, sausage, salami, bologna or other processed red meats. Eating one serving per day of nuts and beans to replace a serving of processed red meat reduced diabetes risk by 41 percent; and replacing a serving of unprocessed red meat reduced diabetes risk by 29 percent. Replacing a serving of red meat with a serving of dairy reduced diabetes risk by 22 percent.
References for other studies showing that eating red meat is associated with increased risk for diabetes include:
Nat Rev Endocrinol, 2018; 14: 88-98
J Epidemiol Glob Health, 2020; 10: 107-111
BMJ, 2019; 366: l2368
Am J Clin Nutr, 2011; 94: 1088-1096
Am J Clin Nutr, 2021; 113: 612-621
J Nutr, 2021; 151: 1241-1248
Diabetes Care, 2020; 43: 2660-2667
Eur J Nutr, 2019; 58: 2705-2712
Am J Clin Nutr, 2021; 113: 497-498
Adv Nutr, 2021; 12: 115-127
Eur J Clin Nutr, 2023; 77: 156-165
Diabetes Care, 2020; 43: 265-271
Also, red meat may harm you because it contains heme iron, which increases insulin resistance (World J Diabetes, Apr 15, 2015;6(3):456–480). Processed meats usually contain nitrites that can be converted to nitrosamines to cause insulin resistance (PLoS Med, Jan 17, 2023;20(1): e1004149).
Type II diabetes will affect up to 70 percent of adult North Americans. People who have normal fasting blood sugars (less than 100 mg/dL) can still be diabetic. Diabetes is defined as having a blood sugar greater than 145 mg/dL one hour after you eat a meal, even if your fasting blood sugar is normal. Most cases of type II diabetes are caused by excessive fat in the liver, which prevents the body from responding to insulin. You can have excess fat in your liver even if you are not overweight. You can find out if you are likely to have a fatty liver by:
• pinching more than three inches of skin and fat next to your belly button,
• having a sonogram that shows a fatty liver, or
• having a blood sugar greater than 145 mg/dL one hour after a meal.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com