Adding Red Meat to Your Diet Linked to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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Loading up on burgers and deli meats may be tempting, but too much red meat could trigger metabolic changes that upset the body’s glucose balance.

Adding to a growing body of research published over the past two years connecting red-meat consumption to a variety of health problems, a new study appearing in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine documents an association between eating red meat and a greater risk for Type 2 diabetes. It’s only the latest investigation to link the popular protein to chronic diseases like obesity as well as to cognitive decline and even premature death.

Previous studies have also found that people who eat more red meat tend to have higher rates of diabetes, but in the latest analysis, Pan An, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, and his colleagues wanted to see if people who started eating more red meat would result in an elevated risk of the chronic condition over time. They studied long-term health data from three Harvard University cohorts that included over 26,300 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study; more than 48,700 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; and slightly over 74,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II.

(MORE: Eating Red, Processed Meat Raises Your Risk of Early Death)

All the participants reported on their eating habits through food questionnaires, including their red-meat intake every four years for an average of 20 years of follow-up. During that time, 7,540 people developed Type 2 diabetes. And within each cohort, those who ate more red meat as the study progressed showed higher rates of diabetes than those whose consumption didn’t change.

Those who added more than half a serving of red meat per day from the time the study started showed a 48% greater risk of Type 2 diabetes at the next four-year checkup compared with participants who did not increase intake during that time. Adding more meat to their diet also tended to make them heavier, and that weight gain may have contributed to their higher risk of diabetes, say the authors. On the other hand, people who lowered their red-meat consumption by over half a serving each day from the start of the study enjoyed a 14% lower risk of having Type 2 diabetes over the course of the entire study compared with those who didn’t change how much red meat they ate (the benefits of cutting back on red meat, alas, took longer to unfold than the harms from eating more meat). Rates of diabetes were higher among people who consumed mostly processed meats such as deli fare and hot dogs compared with those who ate unprocessed red meat.

(MORE: It’s Not Just the Fat: There’s Another Way Red Meat May Harm the Heart)

In a editorial accompanying the study, William J. Evans, of GlaxoSmithKline and Duke University in Durham, N.C., pointed out that the results don’t necessarily suggest that red meat is the culprit; instead, the saturated fats embedded in red meats that may be responsible for the health harms to the heart and for upsetting glucose balance:

A recommendation to consume less red meat may help to reduce the epidemic of [Type 2 diabetes]. 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.

Numerous studies documented that the high levels of saturated fat in red meat are primarily responsible for clogging up arteries, while other types of monounsaturated fats, like those in olive oil, are associated with many health benefits, including lower levels of inflammation. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in March 2012 found that saturated fats and trans fats found in meat and butter were linked to poor cognitive function and memory in women over time, while “good” fats like the monounsaturated fats in avocados and olive oil were connected to better brain function.

(MORE: Vegetarians May Live Longer)

But it may be unfair to put the blame entirely on saturated fats. Another study, published in April, found that human-gut bacteria turn a red-meat compound called carnitine into an artery-clogging agent that in mice caused atherosclerosis, a recipe for blocked blood vessels and heart disease.

Overall, the data seem to hint that red meat may adversely affect health in a variety of different ways that haven’t yet been identified, while a plant-based diet may be beneficial in equally unexplained ways. One of the largest studies to date, for example, recently reported that vegetarians lived longer than their meat-eating counterparts, and the study authors speculate that the longevity may result not just from vegetarians’ avoidance of red meat, but the fact that they benefit from a variety of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. A comparable British study of the vegetarian diet that included more 47,250 participants did not find the same improvement in longevity, however, which could reflect differences in the types of foods that U.S. and U.K. vegetarians favor; Americans tend to eat more fiber and vitamin C, for example, and both have been associated with lowering risk of cancer and other chronic diseases that can shorten life.

All of which leads nutrition experts to the conclusion that maintaining a healthy diet is not just about cutting out certain foods like red meat and high-fat fare, but making sure you substitute in the right nutritious options. Finding that magic formula for longevity and a disease-free life, however, remains a challenge.




This just isn't biologically plausible. Calories are calories, and how could meat cause any of those things?


It's intuitively ridiculous to associate meat with diabetes. It's not the meat. It's the fries, the buns and the sodas. Besides, it's ignorant to lump hot dogs in with Omaha steaks. Basically, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from the deli counter. 


I believe that was a convincing argument with additional supporting experimental figures, to eat red meat would lead to higher risk of type 2 diabetes.


All the participants reported on their eating habits through food questionnaires, including their red-meat intake every four years for an average of 20 years of follow-up.

Really? Every four years? Most of us can't remember what we ate last week. These kinds of studies suffer from inaccuracy from the test subjects and also from the fact that they did not report, were probably not asked to report, that they had also increased their intake of sugars. They overate everything, in other words, but meat was specifically selected because the researchers had a bias (based on the funding of the study, if other studies which were busted for the same thing give an indication). That's the criticism offered by several experts in the field, including Gary Taubes. Please consider this: there is much riding on the possibility of convincing the public that they don't need meat, that meat is bad for them, that they would do better on grains and other sugars. Because then wages can be lowered another tick. Please be critical, please don't buy it. Animal products offer a complex array of animo acids that grains, fruits, and vegetables simply cannot replace. We have not yet isolated all the amino acids in red meat, and in fact diabetes studies show that the insulin response is triggered by sugar, sugar, sugar, never meat.


@rawveganathletekyle @janet_baker76 

Define fatty foods? Foods with Essential fatty acids, perhaps? Are you saying fat is unhealthy, or just certain types? Nuts have fat.

Are you a freelee wannabee? who claims to eat 20 bananas a day.So you get 2000 calories in Bananas alone? and about 8,000mg of potassium. Freelee claims 51 Bananas a day. She would be dead or very sick if she did that on a daily basis.

Say No To Broscience!


"Rates of diabetes were higher among people who consumed mostly processed meats such as deli fare and hot dogs compared with those who ate unprocessed red meat."

This is the general trend when you differentiate between the two. In the scientific dialogue it is very important to differentiate between them and be crystal-clear about it because they are probably significantly different. Talking about "red meat" as an entire category is no longer sufficient or helpful, and so it would be nice if you had reported on the hazard ratios for unprocessed meat specifically. That's my tip for the future to make articles more informative.

By doing this we can actually further expand our understandings of the issues at hand. For example there is generally a significant difference between risk when differentiating between processed and unprocessed, as this study apparently showed, but in the day-to-day diets of people they don't have a significantly different amount of saturated fat. That is the conclusion of some scientists who did a meta-analysis of studies that differentiate between processed and unprocessed.

Yet saturated fat has been proposed as the mechanism by which red meat supposedly increases the risk for diabetes. Well that doesn't add up. And dairy fat is not associated with diabetes risk despite being high in saturated fats.

It seems likely that the answer lies in the differences between processed and unprocessed meat since they seem to be so different. Some people have suggested that it is the formation of nitrosamines, but it could also have to do with other harmful molecules that are produced during high heat cooking. If you look at the heterocyclic amine content of fried bacon, it is quite high:

This is actually a fairly well-supported idea, if you compare diets where the food is cooked at high temperatures and where it is cooked a low temperatures, you notice significant differences in insulin resistance (has a section on it)

And so if unprocessed red meat is still somewhat associated with diabetes risk then it might just be that it tends to be overcooked by a lot of people and doing this contributes to the statistic, whereas other cooking techniques might not be bad. Fried, fried in oils, especially a deep frier, grilled on the BBQ, etc. Those are the types of techniques that produce more inflammatory compounds which can cause insulin resistance via aberrant cytokine signalling, yet HCA content in cooked meat can also be minimized and pose little threat.

Therefore it can't be said that there is an inherent problem with red meat, it could easily just be the way it is cooked. That was actually the conclusion of the article as well, but for a different reason, the saturated fat one. I think that my cooking toxin hypothesis is better support than the saturated fat hypothesis. There might be some merit to the saturated fat one but I doubt that it actually entails eating less of it, and it isn't a very well-supported hypothesis.

It could also be that red meat tends to be correlated with the consumption of unhealthy foods like french fries which are fried in oxidized fats. This seems apparent; the people who care less about their health and go to fast food restaurants both eat more red meat and more junk food, and these studies are unable to tell us which dietary factor is responsible for correlations with diabetes. I have never seen a sufficient multivariate linear regression analysis for this, they usually only control for a few factors.

There is also the possibility, which this article mentions, that it is just that the people who were eating more red meat were also eating more calories and gained more weight and had more cellular energy overload. It can't be concluded that red meat makes you gain weight if it is consumed isocalorically compared with other foods; not without excellent experimental evidence where everything is tightly controlled and the only relevant difference between the control and intervention group is the meat vs. the other food. There is no apparent logical path from red meat being correlated with more calories and both of those being correlated with higher diabetes risks to red meat causing higher diabetes risk, or increasing the risk of obesity for that matter. But I don't know what kind of regression analysis they did in the study, that would also be a nice thing to share as well.

Lastly, although many people seem to be on the carnitine-kills-you bandwagon, it does appear to be a beneficial nutrient in many regards, including promoting insulin sensitivity as has shown here scroll down to insulin sensitivity and check their references. And so whether or not the highest intakes of red meat are detrimental, it may be ill-advised to stop eating it completely, as it is the best source of carnitine in the diet.

In summary, I find the notion that red meat consumption increases the risk of diabetes to be unconvincing from this article and the ones linked within it, but I suppose people can side with whichever correlations they like. 


Sunny Gibbs
Sunny Gibbs

This is too vague and biased. What is too much and who set the standard? What bothers me in articles like this is words like "loading up". This doesn't sound like anything verifiable or authentic to me. And lumping terms like "burgers and deli meats" infers that all red meat is equally bad, which is not true. Typically hamburger and deli meats are laced with fillers and additives. Hardly an objective report. They are just selling fear and hype. Everything in moderation is the answer. Oh, and the term, "could trigger. . .", then again, it could not. What is the point of implying hazard if it isn't a fact. Terms and phrases that give-a-way not so legitimate reports that are pushing something else for their own selfish purposes. They shouldn't be allowed to do that.


Humans have perfected eating, Modern dishes provides more taste and also more calories. Modern food is refined and sophisticated one. All Animals want to eat more and more so that they can store enough energy to further living.

What is not factored is that modern Humans do not require so much of energy for their day to day survival.

Human body like any other animals stores the excess energy as fat, the fat we rarely need to use in this modern days.

This excess energy is the cause of diseases and complications of these diseases.

Only way is reduce intake that is is easier to say than practice

the other way is spend the trapped energy 

This is achieved by working and walking

Working a manual job hitting a Gym, Yoga or manual labor will do the job.

Human body has muscles spread across the body providing various movements that are necessary to survive even in toughest situations.

I have invented Body Mass Function Index BMFI Pl follow and visit

Humans have learnt walking by trial and error 

none of us are taught How to walk correctly

Right walking is 1. Heel strike 2. Foot flat 3. Heel Off and 4.Toe off

Right walking puts the body into "virtuous cycle of Health"

Wlking improves the Muscle mass Muscle bulk absorbs the glucose and fat

Muscles and bone actions provide maximum stimulus to vital organs and make all organ in fit conditions.

Pl follow

Right walking, working Physically puts you in the "virtuous cycle of Health"


The animals being eaten today by Americans are in terrible shape, and represent a very poor quality of nutrition. Organic, free range, lean… blah, blah, blah. Six states have made it a crime to film animal suffering because they absolutely don’t want you to see beyond the pretty cellophane package in your freezer. The meat is inedible. If you saw the cow or chicken you are about to eat, you wouldn’t touch it, much less eat it.

Do you honestly feel that an animal raised in a pen/crate, with no exercise, no sunlight, surrounded by feces, eating byproduct feed, injected with growth hormones, antidepressants and massive amounts of antibiotics, then slaughtered, sprayed with chlorine, full of death stress hormones is a good food decision? If so, don’t read any further.

Rest of comment:

Ian Welch


What butcher shop was that ribeye photographed? I'll take 6.


There is a huge difference between burgers and organic steaks. A protein based diet saved me from going blind due to complications with Type 1 diabetes, and I know it would have saved me and many other from becoming diabetic in the first place. 

Slightly off topic, but how many more "diabetes aware" signs can be placed on the tills of stores selling processed people food? 

Let's not bash red meat but lets move people over to a sensible balance of chicken, fish and fresh red mead - keeping the burgers and frozen stuffs for treats. 

Sorry I'm not as scientific as you all, but I have 20yrs experience living with T1 and every article I see pushing people away from 'A rightful understanding equating to a just responsibility,' well you are literally killing people with headlines. 

Oh, and the diet that saved me is 




One theory of cardiovascular disease that has not been adequately studied involves homocysteine. From the 1960s, a handful of researchers have noticed the propensity of homocysteine to produce arteriosclerosis. In the early 1980s, MIT scientists Gruber and Raymond summarized the relevant research in a book, Beyond Cholesterol: B6, Arteriosclerosis and Your Heart. They noted that "Homocysteine rapidly induces the initial states of arteriosclerosis and cholesterol's effects are not apparent." Im short, people with more cardiovascular disease often have higher homocysteine levels. Gruber and Raymond asserted that simply ingesting about 25 mgs. of vitamin B6 can substantially reduce the level of homocysteine, and therefore the risk. Dr. Gruberg recently told me that he was more convinced than ever of the validity of the homocysteine theory. Yet barely any research is being conducted about homocysteine and heart disease. In lieu of such research, the harm of taking 25 mgs/daily of vitamin B6 is very low, and the vitamin is cheap. It might be good insurance until researchers finally give proper attention to the effects of homocysteine.


and birth leads to death