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Red Meat Linked to Diabetes

by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D

Red Meat (Image from Seattle Organic Restaurant)
The largest study to date shows that eating red meat every day increases risk of diabetes by 19 percent (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2011). Researchers analyzed data on 204,157 men and women who were followed from 14 to 28 years in the Health Professionals Study and the Nurses Studies.

They found that eating processed meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) daily increased risk by more than 50 percent. They also found that substituting other protein sources for red meat markedly reduces diabetes risk. The most effective foods were whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy products. Beans are also an excellent substitute for red meat.

Another study found that meat-eating adults are four times more likely to develop diabetes than vegetarians in just two years of follow-up (Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. published online October 10, 2011). The authors followed 15,200 men and 26,187 women in the U.S. and Canada who were free of diabetes. Two years later diabetes had developed in 0.54 percent of vegans, 1.08 percent of lacto-ovo vegetarians, 1.29 percent of pesco-vegetarians, 0.92 percent of semi-vegetarians and 2.12 percent of non-vegetarians.

PROBABLE MECHANISM: Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar into cells, it must first attach to special hooks on cells called insulin receptors. The saturated animal fat in meat prevents insulin from attaching to its receptors. As a result, blood sugar levels rise and a person is at increased risk for developing diabetes.

NITRATES AND IRON: Meat is also high in nitrites and nitrates which block insulin receptors. Processed meats have even higher levels of nitrates because they are added as preservatives. Red meat contains high levels of extremely absorbable heme iron that can damage the beta cells that produce insulin.

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