A recent comprehensive study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that eating as little as two servings of red meat per week could significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study, published October 19, 2023, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, carries crucial implications regarding your dietary choices, revealing that your diabetes risk might increase with the more red meat you eat. However, the researchers point out that substituting red meat with healthy plant-based proteins, such as nuts or legumes, or moderate amounts of dairy products, may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Keep reading to learn more about the study’s findings and what they mean for your health.
What the Study Found
To arrive at these conclusions, researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed a substantial number of type 2 diabetes cases over an extended time period to draw connections between red meat consumption and disease risk. They extracted data from a vast pool of 216,695 participants in studies such as the Nurses' Health Study, NHS II and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The participants’ dietary habits were assessed through food frequency questionnaires every two to four years for up to 36 years. During this time, more than 22,000 participants developed type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that consuming both processed and unprocessed red meat significantly was correlated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those who consumed the highest amounts of red meat faced a 62% higher risk than those with the lowest intake. Substituting red meat with plant-based protein sources like nuts and legumes was associated with a 30% lower risk, while replacing red meat with dairy products lowered the risk by 22%.
If you’re curious as to how much red meat is safe to eat, senior author Walter Willett, M.D., a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement, “Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving per week of red meat would be reasonable for people wishing to optimize their health and well-being.”
The implications of this research go beyond personal health, as reducing red meat consumption in favor of plant-based protein sources may offer environmental benefits by helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions related to food production and helping combat climate change. The study reinforces the idea that limiting your red meat intake to one serving per week may be a smart option for those looking to optimize both their personal health and the well-being of the planet.
The Bottom Line
A recent study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that eating as little as two servings of red meat per week could significantly increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study reveals a direct correlation between red meat consumption and diabetes risk, emphasizing that the more red meat you consume, the higher your risk becomes. However, the researchers indicate that substituting red meat with healthy plant-based proteins, such as nuts or legumes, or moderate amounts of dairy products, may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to help clarify these findings in a broader population, but they’re promising for those looking to lower their risk of this common chronic disease. This research also reinforces that limiting red meat intake to about one serving per week may be a helpful strategy for improving personal and planetary health.