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Red Meat and Blood Sugar Problems

Red Meat and Blood Sugar Problems
Meat barbecue beef

There’s growing evidence that diet impacts the risk of developing diabetes. It would not be surprising to learn that sugary snacks or trans fats in foods like cookies or cupcakes could contribute to the risk, but red meat?

Long-term data from more than 100,000 health professionals show that increasing meat consumption raises the risk for type 2 diabetes. The investigators analyzed detailed reports of food consumption from the volunteers at the beginning of the study and every four years thereafter.

Those who increased their consumption of processed meat products such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages or deli meats saw their risk of diabetes rise by around 48% over the next four years. Unprocessed meat consumption also had an impact, with the risk elevated around 30% over that timespan. People who lowered their meat intake by about half a serving a day had a slight decline over the course of the 20-year study, though there was no significant change within four years.

The researchers are not quite sure what it is about red meat that might be the culprit. Some suggest saturated fat, while others blame it on sodium, preservatives, heme-iron or just extra calories. Vegetarians get to feel smug about this one.

[JAMA Internal Medicine,  online June 17, 2013]

People who would like to learn more about preventing diabetes or treating it with lifestyle approaches will be interested in our Guide to Managing Diabetes.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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