Why eating meat can increase your diabetes risk

written by Meena Azzollini

Meat, poultry, fish and shellfish in plates on a table

Credit:123RF

A high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is considered a healthy option with many benefits for your body and your health. It is especially considered a better option than meat in preventing the risk of diabetes. However, not all types of meat affects the risk factor of diabetes equally.

A team of researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School evaluated the relationships of red meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish intakes, as well as heme-iron intake, with the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

To understand why meat and poultry consumption increased the risk of diabetes, the researchers investigated the role of dietary heme-iron content found in meat and poultry and found a dose-dependent positive relationship.

The researchers examined data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study which recruited 63,257 adults aged 45-74 years between 1993 and 1998 with a follow up for an average of 11 years.

The study found a positive association between the intake of red meat and poultry and the risk of developing diabetes. During a mean follow-up of 10.9 years, 5,207 incident cases of T2D were reported.

Compared to the lowest quartile intake, those in the highest quartile intake of red meat and poultry had a 23 per cent and a 15 per cent increase in the risk of diabetes respectively.

The consumption of fish and shellfish was not associated with any risk of developing diabetes. The risk of in diabetes development due to red meat and poultry consumption was reduced by substituting with fish and shellfish.

To understand why meat and poultry consumption increased the risk of diabetes, the researchers investigated the role of dietary heme-iron content found in meat and poultry and found a dose-dependent positive relationship.

After adjusting the heme-iron content in meat, there was still an association between red meat consumption and diabetes suggesting that other chemicals present in the meat were responsible for diabetes. However, for poultry, once the heme-iron was removed the risk of diabetes became null suggesting that the risk of diabetes is attributable to the hem-iron content in poultry.

The study also demonstrates that other parts of the chicken like chicken breast, which has less heme-iron content, is a better option than chicken thighs.

These findings confirm other studies and what we already know: that reducing red meat consumption is a healthy option in many ways and replacing red meat and poultry with fish and shellfish is much better and reduces the risk of developing diabetes.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!