close up photo of raw meat

Photo by Cindie Hansen from Unsplash

BOSTON — Whether it’s bacon with breakfast or steak for dinner, just two servings of red meat a week may elevate your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a new study warns. Researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health add that the risk appears to grow with higher consumption of red meat — a common part of many Western diets.

However, the study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that substituting red meat with plant-based protein sources like nuts and legumes can potentially reduce this risk. Study authors found that swapping red meat with these plant proteins or even modest amounts of dairy foods resulted in a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.

“Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat,” says first author Xiao Gu, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition, in a media release.

While prior studies have identified a connection between red meat intake and the risk of Type 2 diabetes, this recent research offers more definitive insights by analyzing a significant number of T2D cases over an extended time frame. The global surge in Type 2 diabetes rates is deeply concerning to medical professionals. Diabetes not only poses a grave health challenge but also amplifies the risk for cardiovascular and kidney diseases, cancer, and even dementia.

Two raw hanger steaks
Two raw hanger steaks (Photo by Alexander Raths on Shutterstock)

To reach this conclusion, the research team evaluated health data from 216,695 participants. They monitored their dietary habits using food frequency questionnaires every two to four years, spanning up to 36 years. Within this duration, over 22,000 participants were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

The data reveals a potent association between red meat consumption, including both its processed and unprocessed forms, and an augmented risk of Type 2 diabetes. Those who consumed the most red meat faced a 62-percent increased risk compared to individuals who consumed the least. An extra daily serving of processed red meat was linked to a 46-percent higher risk, while an additional serving of unprocessed meat correlated with a 24-percent heightened risk.

Further analysis uncovered that replacing a daily serving of red meat with nuts and legumes could result in a 30-percent reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Swapping it for dairy products led to a 22-percent decrease.

“Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving per week of red meat would be reasonable for people wishing to optimize their health and wellbeing,” says senior author Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition.

The researchers also highlighted the broader benefits of opting for plant-based protein sources. Beyond individual health advantages, these choices could notably diminish greenhouse gas emissions, counteract climate change, and offer other environmental benefits.

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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  1. Sherry says:

    This article is ridiculous, not backed by scientific research or even plausible studies. For sure, it is a politically motivated attack on the meat industry. Both my parents were meat eaters their entire lives, one living to 90 and the other turning 100 in a couple of weeks. Most of my family are red meat regularly and we’re not ever diabetic. Stop putting this garbage in print!

  2. is garbage says:

    This is the dumbest shit I’ve ever read. This slaps essentially all diabetes and metabolism research in the face based on shitty survey data collected ever 2 years.

    Carbohydrates cause insulin insensitivity. Advanced insulin insensitivity is what we call type 2 diabetes. There are no motherf****** Carbohydrates in red meat unless you put that red meat on a bun.

    A diet of all mean will be so devoid of Carbohydrates it will reverse insulin insensitivity.

    In 1977 when dietary guidelines changes to recommend more Carbohydrates obesity went up linearly. These scientists are doing bad science because they are bad at basic biochemistry and we are all getting fater and dying earlier because of it.

  3. Chris says:

    Utter leftist vegan nonsense. Pure trash.
    I have been pure carnivore since my mid 30s, eating almost 2 kg of fatty red meat per day and 1 kg of high fat dairy per day. Almost 50 now and I’m in perfect health. Muscular. Lean. No metabolic syndrome. High androgens. No type 2 diabetes. No cardiovascular disease whatsoever. No osteoarthritis. No inflammation. No chronic health issues. Never sick. Perfect blood panels. In the gym 6 days per week. Endless energy. Red meat is the elixir of life, containing essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, zoo chemicals such as creatine, vitamins, minerals, and no toxic carbs or sugar. You are fake leftist liars.

  4. Bradley Bolin says:

    What a useless study. What is the alleged mechanism for this correlation? It makes no logical sense. Type 2 Diabetes is clearly driven by carbohydrate intake. There are zero carbohydrates in red meat. Again, what is the proposed mechanism for this mere correlation? Crickets. More anti-meat fearmongering. Nothing to see here.

  5. alma nachison says:

    I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I changed my diet to keto with lots of red meat and I lost 125 lbs. My Aic is now 5.0. So this article leaves me with the impression that it was written by a vegan.