WASHINGTON – Researchers at Harvard claim to have uncovered what they’re calling a strong link between eating red meat, particularly processed, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, theToronto Sunreported. Published online Aug. 10 in the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study suggests replacing red meat with “healthier proteins”, such as low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains, can significantly lower this alleged risk.

But the American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) said in a statement that red meat, including meat that has been cured or processed, continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and that nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence – not on the latest study that stands in contrast to other research and to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, said

For the Harvard study, researchers analyzed completed questionnaires from 37,083 men who were tracked for 20 years in one study, plus 167,074 women from two different studies were followed for 28 years as well as14 years.

Researchers found a daily 100-gram serving of unprocessed red meat – about the size of a deck of cards – was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, after adjusting for age, body mass index, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors. They further discovered one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat, such as one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon – was associated with a 51 percent increased risk.

Researchers claim for an individual who eats one daily serving of red meat, substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes; substituting low-fat dairy, a 17 percent lower risk; and substituting whole grains, a 23 percent lower risk.

“The total body of research reflects the fact that we simply don’t have any metabolic studies implicating meat consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” counters James Hodges, AMIF president. “In fact, other epidemiological studies have found no link between eating fresh red meat and type 2 diabetes.”

Singling out individual foods that may be associated with type 2 diabetes ignores the fact that obesity and diabetes have a wide range of genetic, lifestyle, social, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to variations in their prevalence, Hodges said.

“No one food should be singled out as an increased risk factor for diseases like type 2 diabetes,” he added.

The study shows no increased risk with average meat intake, Hodges said. The statistical significance is determined by the groups consuming the most and least amount of meat, which is important because on average, Americans are consuming the recommended amount of meat, 5 to 7 oz. per day, according to government data. The meat, poultry, bean and fish group is the only category Americans are eating in the proper amount, as vegetables and fruits are under consumed and discretionary fats and sugars are over-consumed.

“This study is just the latest example of ‘nutrition whiplash’ for consumers. The best medical and scientific advice to follow to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, or any chronic disease for that matter, is to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a balanced diet, increase physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight,” Hodges concluded.