Eating meat ‘significantly increases’ type 2 diabetes risk

Higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, according to new research by Duke-NUS Medical School.

The findings come from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which recruited 63,257 adults between the ages of 45 and 74, then followed them up for an average of 11 years.

The researchers found a positive association between intake of red meat and poultry, and risk of developing diabetes. Specifically, compared to those in the lowest quartile intake, those in the highest quartile intake of red meat and poultry had a 23 per cent and 15 per cent increase in risk of diabetes. The intake of fish and shellfish was not associated with an increased risk.

To understand the underlying mechanism for the role of red meat and poultry in the development of diabetes, the researchers also investigated the association between dietary heme-iron content and diabetes, and found an association. After adjusting for heme-iron content in the diet, the red-meat and diabetes association was still present, suggesting that other chemicals present in red meat could be accountable for the increase in risk of diabetes.

The study’s senior author, Professor Koh Woon Puay, said: ‘We want to provide the public with information to make evidence-based choices in picking the healthier food to reduce disease risk.’

‘Although a number of western studies have consistently shown that red meat consumption should be moderated, this study is highly relevant as it is based on local population and consumption patterns. The findings affirm HPB’s recommendation to consume red meat in moderation, and that a healthy and balanced diet should contain sufficient and varied protein sources, including healthier alternatives to red meat such as fish, tofu and legumes.’