red meat intake and diabetes diet

Research results concerning the relationship between saturated fats and blood cholesterol have been extrapolated to implicate the consumption of red meats and the incidence of various health problems including cardiovascular diseases, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and more recently, diabetes type 2. This attack on red meats has also been fueled by ferocious campaigns from environmentalists and vegetarians.

However, a cause-effect involving the intake of red meats, mainly cattle and pig cuts, and diabetes type 2 has not been conclusively proven. Thus, this presumption looks rather superficial and requires further consideration.

In 2001, researchers from Harvard University conducted a study during 28 years involving a total of 37.083 men and 79.570 women. The objective was to carry out a follow up of their dietary habits and to correlate this information with the probability of occurrence of various health problems. In addition, another group of 87.504 subjects were included in the study to establish the possible association between their diets and their clinical records during a 14-year experimental period.

Results indicated that those individuals that consumed, on the average, 100 g of red meat / day in the form of beef hamburgers or steak, increased their risk of suffering diabetes type 2 by 19 %. Moreover, those who ate 50 g / day of processed or cured meats such as sausages, salami, ham, and canned meats, the risk of having diabetes type 2 went up to 50 %.

Although both unprocessed and cured meats certainly increase the risk of becoming a diabetic, it is clear that the habitual consumption of cured meats more than doubles the risk compared to those consuming unprocessed red meats. These findings also suggest that   there are components in the cured meat responsible for boosting the potential harmful effects of unprocessed red meats on health. Similar conclusions have been drawn from other studies stating that the consumption of one-steak /day raises the risk of developing obesity, diabetes type 2, and colon cancer. Taken together, these data indicates that amount of meat consumed counts as well as the method we use to preserve and process the meat.  At the end, the key factor to make a wise decision about consuming red meats is balance. There is no need to ban completely the red meats from our diet. You can eat it as long as you don’t add it to your diet on a daily basis and try hard to avoid cured and canned red meats.

As a practical rule, if you want to enjoy red meats while reducing the risk of developing overweight, diabetes type 2, or hypercholesterolemia, we at Diabetv recommend eating, twice a week, the 145 g of red meat cooked at home as a steak, lean ground beef, or hamburgers.  You should alternate red meats with fish and white meats, and stay away as much as you can from salami, sausages or other types of cured meats. Ah!, don’t forget to include also, some sources of vegetable protein, high in dietary fiber.


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Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez

Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez


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