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Diabetes is a significant health burden in the U.S., affecting 11.6% of the population, or 38.4 million people. This includes both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases. Several studies have found a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 


A study of over 200,000 adults followed over 36 years, led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that those eating just two servings of red meat per week have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those eating fewer servings, with the risk increasing with greater red meat consumption. The study also found that replacing red meat with healthy plant-based protein sources, such as nuts and legumes, reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes.


The study found that every additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and every additional daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24% greater risk. Overall, individuals who consumed the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of diabetes compared with those who consumed the least.


A key reason for the increased diabetes risk is that red meat contains more saturated fat compared to other protein sources. Saturated fat may negatively affect insulin sensitivity and the functioning of the insulin-producing beta cell over time. Additionally, the nitrates and preservatives in processed meats can damage cells in the pancreas, which are involved in insulin production. Red meat also contains a high amount of heme iron, which can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation. Furthermore, red meat, especially processed meat, has been linked to weight gain, which is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. 


Replacing red meat, especially processed red meats such as ham, bacon, and hot dogs which are often higher in saturated fat and sodium, with plant proteins improves diet quality and promotes weight loss––both of which reduce diabetes risk.




The sources for the information on this page can be found here.

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