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Research Shows a Strong Link Between Red Meat, Diabetes

— November 13, 2023

Sugary foods may top the list of ‘don’t eats’ for diabetes, but new research suggests red meat may be just as bad.

Diabetes is a disease that has taken a massive toll on the health of millions of Americans – in addition to millions more around the world. Most of the time, this is a condition that is associated with the consumption of significant quantities of sugar and other forms of carbohydrate. However, recent research is showing that an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes may be associated with foods that aren’t the usual culprits. For example, new research shows a strong link between diabetes and red meat.

The scope of this study performed by researchers at Harvard University is truly impressive. The study took place over more than three decades, and more than 200,000 people were involved. Many different aspects of health were researched and observed using this massive data set, and one interesting finding was how red meat seemed to be connected to diabetes.

To sum it up, people who ate the most red meat in the study were found to have a 62% higher chance of having type 2 diabetes than people who ate the least red meat. The findings were particularly dramatic when it came to processed red meat, meaning a strong link existed, which saw the chances of type 2 diabetes go up 46% with each additional weekly serving consumed. It wasn’t just processed red meat that was troublesome, however, as even unprocessed red meat servings boosted the issue by 24%.

Research Shows a Strong Link Between Red Meat, Diabetes
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

The findings of this study aren’t suggesting that no one should ever eat red meat, but they do point to the value of moderation, as there is a strong link when eating red meat in excess. Through moderation, the risk of diabetes can be controlled, while also making it possible for individuals to get the nutrition they need. For those who are worried about getting enough protein, there are many other viable sources that can get the job done without coming along with the downsides of eating red meat. Things like peas, lentils, eggs, beans, nuts, and poultry are all choices that could work for many people. Simply switching out one or two weekly servings of red meat with another form of protein can have a positive impact and bring down the likelihood of winding up with type 2 diabetes.

It’s impossible to talk about red meat consumption without talking about the impact that these kinds of meats have on the environment. Growing animals that provide red meat – often cows – can take a toll on the environment in a variety of ways. Part of the impact of raising cattle comes in the greenhouse gases that they produce, while another impact is the land they graze and the farming practices that go into that grazing. When people eat less red meat, fewer cows need to be raised, and the impact on the earth is lessened.

The damage to public health that is done by diabetes tends to get overlooked as people may focus on things like heart disease, cancer, and other threats. While those issues are certainly worthy of plenty of attention and research in their own right, it would be a mistake to continue to downplay just how damaging diabetes has been and continues to be.


Eating even 2 servings of red meat a week could significantly raise your risk of diabetes. 10 protein-packed alternatives can boost your health—and the planet’s

Red meat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in a prospective cohort study of United States females and males

National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States

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