Claim: Eating red meat increases risk of Type 2 diabetes

This is junk science because…

The results are all in the range of statistical noise, a reality that is underscored by the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes is not an identifiable disease;
  • The dietary and other risk factors data are all self-reported and unverified — and, therefore, unreliable; and
  • There is no biological explanation for how eating red meat could possibly interfere with maintaining normal blood glucose.

The media release is below.

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Eating more red meat associated with increased risk of type-2 diabetes

Eating more red meat over time is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in a follow-up of three studies of about 149,000 U.S. men and women, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Red meat consumption has been consistently related to an increased risk of T2DM, but previous studies measured red meat consumption at a baseline with limited follow-up information. However, a person’s eating behavior changes over time and measurement of consumption at a single point in time does not capture the variability of intake during follow-up, the authors note in the study background.

An Pan, Ph.D., of the National University of Singapore, and colleagues analyzed data from three Harvard group studies and followed up 26,357 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study; 48,709 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; and 74,077 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diets were assessed using food frequency questionnaires.

During more than 1.9 million person-years of follow-up, researchers documented 7,540 incident cases of T2DM.

“Increasing red meat intake during a four-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of T2DM during the subsequent four years in each cohort,” according to the study.

The results indicate that compared with a group with no change in red meat intake, increasing red meat intake of more than 0.50 servings per day was associated with a 48 percent elevated risk in the subsequent four-year period. Reducing red meat consumption by more than 0.50 servings per day from baseline to the first four years of follow-up was associated with a 14 percent lower risk during the subsequent entire follow-up.

The authors note the study is observational so causality cannot be inferred.

“Our results confirm the robustness of the association between red meat and T2DM and add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention,” the authors conclude.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 17, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Editor’s Note: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. An author also made a funding disclosure. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Commentary: Oxygen-Carrying Proteins in Meat and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus

In an invited commentary, William J. Evans, Ph.D., of GlaxoSmithKline and Duke University, Durham, N.C., writes: “The article by Pan et al confirms previous observations that the consumption of so-called red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).”

“Perhaps a better description of the characteristics of the meat consumed with the greatest effect on risk is the saturated fatty acid (SFA) content rather than the amount of oxygen-carrying proteins,” Evans continues.

“A recommendation to consume less red meat may help to reduce the epidemic of T2DM. However, the overwhelming preponderance of molecular, cellular, clinical and epidemiological evidence suggests that public health messages should be directed toward the consumption of high-quality protein that is low in total and saturated fat. … These public health recommendations should include cuts of red meat that are also low in fat, along with fish, poultry and low-fat dairy products. It is not the type of protein (or meat) that is the problem: it is the type of fat,” Evans concludes.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 17, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7399. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Editor’s Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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5 thoughts on “Claim: Eating red meat increases risk of Type 2 diabetes”

  1. Studies seem to reveal that any diet will link up to some kind of disease, however vaguely, so there’s no dietary guidance that works. Maybe just eating a widely varied diet, including meat but perhaps not based on meat, makes a lot of sense. If an individual has a sensitivity, as some seem to have toward carbs or fats or salt, the individual should vary the diet accordingly.
    No extreme diet advice, not even the paleo diet, seems wise to me. (The paleo diet is extreme in its rejection of all processed foods.)
    And every diet should leave room for bacon…

  2. Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism. Yet any meat is low in carbohydrates. Though highest in lean meat, since muscle cells are where animals store glycogen.
    Maybe it’s more what tends to be eaten with the meat which matters more.
    Also both fat cells and the liver will turn excess carbohydrates into (saturated) fats. Maybe they are trying to claim that the problem is really chylomicrons containing saturated fat. Though the intestines also put dietary fat into VLDL (which unlike liver produced VLDL can never turn into IDL or LDL, due to slightly different apolipoproteins.)
    AFAIK no lipoproteins carry any markers to indicate if their “cargo” contains saturated or unsaturated fatty acids.
    Maybe someone could explain all this fuss about fat. Especially given that “low fat” diets tend to be (very) high in carbohydrate. Both due to low/reduced fat foods often containing highly processed carbohydrates and such diets typically being based around “starchy foods”. So far as the human body is concerned 100g of starch equates to 111.1g of glucose. (Though the amylose/amylopectin ratio may make some difference how quickly this glucose winds up in the blood.)
    Looking at dietary carbohydrate (especially glucose containing carbohydrates) consumption would appear to be a far more obvious thing to be researching. But maybe not “PC”…

  3. Actually, this goes even beyond junk science. Meat is very low in carbs–and by itself could not possibly promote hyperglycemia. One tired theory is that red meat is an “inflammatory food,” which can raise blood glucose, but this is pretty much voodoo.

    Mark is right on…it is the miserable low fat/high carb diet that is promoting our obesity/type 2 epidemic, but that will be admitted at the same time that “they” admit the the lipid/cholesterol theory of heart disease is all BS.

    Yes friends, in a way, our people are fat, and it’s not their fault. They are doing what the experts told them to do.

  4. Exactly. Did you have a baked potato with that steak? Fries and a coke with that 1/4 pounder. Very few people eat red meat without a ton of carbs.

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