The Link Between Red Meat and Diabetes
It is true that sugary drinks and other sweets are to blame for many of the diabetes cases across the United States, however, a recent study by Harvard University noted that red meat may also contribute to an individual’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes. The study stated that an average of just about three ounces of red meat such as a hamburger or pork chop eaten by an individual on a daily basis had the potential to increase their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 12%. The meat would have to be unprocessed, however. If the meat were processed, the risk spiked to about 32%.
“On a gram-per-gram basis, unprocessed red meat is still better,” says Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the new paper. “But unprocessed red meat is still associated with a significantly increased risk.”
So does that mean that individuals should not consume red meat? The study indicated that there is reason to believe that is the case. The average adult consumes about 100 pounds of red meat on a yearly basis. There’s no question that consumption of red meat is too high,” Hu says, suggesting nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy products as healthier alternatives. And diabetes is not the only reason to switch to lighter forms of protein. Individuals who consume around four ounces of red meat daily are more prone to getting type 2 diabetes and also dying prematurely. It is important to note, however, that eating red meat for a week is not going to give someone diabetes, but regular habitual consumption is what has proved to be the confirmation that there is a link between red meat and diabetes type 2. “It really confirms what other studies have suggested,” says Elizabeth Seaquist, director of the Center for Diabetes Research at the University of Minnesota. Based on her finding, Seaquist was able to determine through meta-analysis that prior hypotheses about red meat and diabetes were indeed true. The Harvard University study was performed specifically to raise potential awareness of the risk factors associated with red meat and to encourage individuals to limit their red meat consumption if possible.
Of course, changing one’s eating habits has to be done over time if one has gotten used to eating red meat on a daily or weekly basis. “People who eat a lot of meats tend to gain more weight,” Hu says. So the new findings might be more “a reflection of poor dietary intake by people who eat meat,” adds Charles Burant, director of the Metabolomics and Obesity Center at the University of Michigan. Seaquist explains more plainly that perhaps “people who eat red meat end up eating French fries with it.” This contributes to the link that red meat has with type 2 diabetes in that individuals who often eat red meat are more prone to eat and drink other sugary items such as soft drinks and French fries, which in turn can lead to obesity and thus the potential for type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, the onus is on individuals to monitor their consumption of red meat as much as possible and limit their intake of other types of sugary foods with it.
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