Just two portions of red meat a week can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.
The US study analyzed several Type 2 diabetes cases that developed over decades and asked participants about their dietary habits.
Researchers looked at health data from 216,695 people from the Nurses’ Health Study, NHS II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in U.Sand asked them to fill out questionnaires about their diet every two to four years for up to 36 years.
During this period, more than 22,000 respondents developed type 2 diabetes, and the results showed that eating processed and unprocessed red meat was strongly associated with an increased risk of developing the condition.
Respondents who ate the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least.
Each additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46% greater chance of developing the condition.
Meanwhile, each additional daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 24% greater risk.
The researchers have also backed replacing red meat with plant-based protein sources such as nuts and legumes, which they say can reduce the chances of developing the condition.
Senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving of red meat per week would be reasonable for people who want to optimize their health and well-being.”
When researchers estimated the effects of replacing one serving of red meat with another protein, they found that replacing one serving of nuts and legumes was associated with a 30% lower risk, and one serving of dairy products was associated with a 22% lower risk .
According to the researchers’ findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, replacing red meat with healthy plant protein sources will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change and provide other environmental benefits.
Previous studies have indicated a link between red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes, and researchers say this study adds a greater degree of certainty about the link.