Limiting Red Meat May Reduce Diabetes Risk

MedicalResearch.com: An Pan, PhD

Research Associate, Dept Nutrition
655 Huntington Avenue Building 2, Room 351
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Three Cohorts of US Men and Women

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer:

— Compared with people who did not change their intake of red meat, those who increased it by as little as half a serving a day (about 1.5 ounces) over a four-year period had a 48% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 4 years.

— People who decreased their intake by half a serving a day over four years did not have an acute reduced risk in the next four years compared to people who did not change their intake, but had a reduced risk of developing the disease by 14% in the entire follow-up period, suggesting a prolonged effect.

— The findings included both processed meat such as lunch meat and hot dogs and unprocessed meats such as hamburger, steak and pork. And the association was generally stronger for processed red meat compared to unprocessed red meat.

— Adjusting for weight modestly reduced the association between red meat consumption and diabetes suggesting that weight gain played a role in the development of the disease.


MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: We were surprised that increasing red meat intake over a 4-year time has an acute effect, i.e., was associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 4 years. We were also surprised that deceasing red meat intake over a 4-year period did not lead to reduced risk in the next four years, but a prolonged lower risk in the long-term. But maybe it is true: if you are doing some “bad” things, you will see the impact immediately, but for the “good” lifestyle habit to have an effect, you may need to wait longer and accumulate more moderate changes.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Our study provides further strong evidence that people should limit their red meat intake for diabetes prevention

For physicians, there are some easy tests to assess an individual’s diabetes risk. Maybe it is nice to have some simple questions regarding their diet, for example, how many red meat products the patients are eating regularly. If the patients eat a lot of red meat, it is better to refer to a dietician and make some changes to healthy diet pattern.

The public health message is trying to limit red meat consumption (particularly processed red meat), and switch to plant-based food choices (nuts, legumes, whole grains) and low-fat dairy, and more fish/poultry.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: We have a good understanding of the public health impact of smoking and physical inactivity, but we need to evaluate the public health impact of certain unhealthy diets, like red meat and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, excess salt intake, refined carbohydrate, not enough fruit and vegetables, trans-fat or saturated fat etc.; we should also have evaluation of public health impact of changing from unhealthy diet to healthy diet. Future studies can also look at organic vs. inorganic meats etc.

Citation:

Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Three Cohorts of US Men and Women. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-8.
doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633.