A recent Harvard School of Public Health study has allegedly identified a “strong association” between red meat consumption, especially processed red meat consumption, and type 2 diabetes. An Pan, et al., “Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2011. Researchers apparently analyzed data from three cohort studies: 37,083 men followed for 20 years in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study; 79,570 women followed for 28 years in the Nurses’ Health Study I; and 87,504 women followed for 14 years in the Nurses’ Health Study II. The study’s authors also apparently conducted “an updated meta-analysis, combining data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total of 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study.”  

According to an August 10, 2011, Harvard School of Public Health press release, the findings reportedly indicated that “a daily 100-gram serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 19% increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” while “one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat—50 grams (for example, one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon)—was associated with a 51% increased risk.” In addition, the authors purportedly 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.”

“Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide,” a study co-author was quoted as saying. “The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein.”