Health-minded adults have been wary of excessive red meat consumption and most avoid any type of processed meats due to the highly carcinogenic nitrite content. Additives used to add taste, cure and prolong shelf life of classic foods such as hot dogs, bologna and sausage not only cause cancer but are now shown to more than double the risk of developing diabetes.
Publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that a 50 gram daily serving of processed meat (equivalent to one hot dog or two strips of bacon) was associated with doubled risk of developing diabetes. They also found that protein from other sources such as nuts, seeds and whole grains will have the reverse effect.
Red and Processed Meats Shown to Double Diabetes Risk Factor
Researchers followed 37,083 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 79,570 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, and 87,504 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diet was assessed by validated food-frequency questionnaires, and data were updated every four years. Type II diabetes diagnosis was confirmed by a validated supplementary questionnaire. In addition the study included data from a total cohort of more than 442,000 participants to make this the largest study to examine the effect of specific food types on diabetes development and progression.
After all collected data was analyzed with adjustments for age, body mass index (BMI), and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, researchers found that consumption of 100 grams of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) increased the risk of developing Type II diabetes by 19%. A diet that included only half that amount of processed meats was associated with a 51% increase in diabetes incidence.
Substituting Healthy Proteins from Nuts and Seeds Lowers Diabetes Risk
Most health professionals believe that diabetes risk is linked to increased intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars. While this may be true, it is important to understand that red and processed meats play a significant role in development of the metabolic disorder, likely due to the increased digestive load placed on the pancreas.
Study authors also found that troubling risk factors can be neutralized or even reversed by substituting healthy protein from nuts, seeds, fish and beans for red and processed meats. Senior research author Dr. An Pan found that “for an individual who eats one daily serving of red meat, substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; substituting low-fat dairy, a 17% lower risk; and substituting whole grains, a 23% lower risk.”
Many health-minded individuals already limit consumption of red and processed meats. The conclusion of this meta-study drives home the importance of severely restricting red meat and totally eliminating processed meats in favor of healthy proteins to lower diabetes risk factors.