Bad news for red meat lovers: A new study found eating more than one serving of red meat per week is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.
For the study, published Thursday in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analyzed health data from 216,695 participants, finding risk for Type 2 diabetes increases with greater red meat consumption.
Researchers assessed diet through food questionnaires the participants filled out every two to four years over a period of up to 36 years, and found more than 22,000 developed Type 2 diabetes.
Those who reported eating the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least. Researchers also estimated every additional daily serving was associated with a greater risk — 46% for processed red meat and 24% for unprocessed.
More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and approximately 90% to 95% of them have Type 2 diabetes. The condition mostly develops in people over age 45, but children, teens and young adults are increasingly developing it too.
"Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat," study author Xiao Gu, postdoctoral research fellow in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, said in a news release.
So if you reduce your red meat consumption, how should you get more protein? Researchers looked into the potential effects of alternatives too — and determined some healthier options.
For example, they found replacing red meat with a serving of nuts and legumes was associated with a 30% lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. The authors added swapping meat for plant protein sources not only benefited health but.
"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," senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, added in the news release.
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