Eating Even a Small Amount of This Can Cause Diabetes, Says New Research

Updated: Oct. 25, 2023

Harvard researchers have identified a strong correlation between the consumption of certain meat with the development of type 2 diabetes as individuals age.

Numerous studies have linked the consumption of excess meat to various health issues—including issues of discomfort, like constipation, to more serious concerns such as certain types of cancers and heart disease. Eating red meat can also affect a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the latest research.

In a study published on October 19, 2023 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health identified a strong correlation between the consumption of red meat with the development of type 2 diabetes as individuals age. In fact, even a relatively small amount of red meat consumption—as little as two servings per week—was associated with a markedly increased risk, according to a press release.

The study, which analyzed the dietary habits reported by over 200,000 people over a span of 36 years from three different research projects, also concluded that the risk for type 2 diabetes escalates as the weekly servings of these meats increase. Among participants in the study who consumed the highest quantities of red meat, whether processed or unprocessed, there was a significant 62% increase in the risk of developing the disease.

Furthermore, the data demonstrated that each additional serving of unprocessed meat increased the risk by 23%, with processed meat doubling the risk to increase it to 46%. Processed types of meat include some types of deli lunch meat, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and others.

“Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, including both processed and unprocessed varieties,” noted Xiao Gu, PhD, the lead author of the study.

The senior author of the research, Walter Willett, MD, Dr. P.H., emphasized that the ultimate goal should be to limit red meat consumption to one serving or less per week to protect against type 2 diabetes.

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The encouraging news is that replacing a few weekly servings of red meat with protein-rich legumes, like beans, or nuts, was shown to reduce the participants’ risk of developing diabetes by an impressive 30%. Opting for dairy products instead of meat also revealed a 22% reduction in risk.

The press release did not mention the impact of replacing red meat with other types of lean meats, like chicken, or seafood on Type 2 Diabetes risk. The study did however note that choosing plant-based proteins may not only benefit individual health but also have a positive effect on the environment.