Study finds that eating processed red meat daily raises type 2 diabetes risk


Oh, bacon. I love thee. BUT. You are now officially lumped with desserts like hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, and deep fried oreos: a treat, not a daily event. (Yes, at one time my motto was: "Life is short. Eat dessert first." It was not uncommon to have a banana split for dinner.)

The study, which was done at the Harvard School of Public Health, found "a strong association between the consumption of red meat—particularly when the meat is processed—and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes." Association does not mean cause. That's worth repeating: association does not mean cause.

According to the media release, this was a large analysis -- questionnaire responses from 37,083 men followed for 20 years in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study; 79,570 women followed for 28 years in the Nurses’ Health Study I; and 87,504 women followed for 14 years in the Nurses’ Health Study II. The researchers also conducted an updated meta-analysis, combining data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total of 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study.

Generally speaking, processed meats -- such as bacon, hot dogs and many deli red meats -- have high levels of sodium and fat, which may contribute to the findings. More than likely, in a diet, they take the place of low-sodium, lower-fat proteins, such as nuts and low-fat dairy. i.e., if you're eating a lot of processed meats, it's likely that there isn't room in your diet for the healthy stuff. You could say the same for eating too much of anything. Even a diet of mostly apples wouldn't be good for you, because even though they're healthy, apples don't give you all the nutrients you need.

This study is also interesting because it separates processed meats from unprocessed meats, such as that lean steak you're thinking about for dinner tonight. According to the release, last year, HSPH researchers "found no clear evidence of an association between eating unprocessed meats and increased risk for either coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes, but that study was based on smaller samples than the current study, and the researchers recommended further study of unprocessed meats."

It's another reminder of leading a life of balance, including a balanced diet, with lots of veggies and fruits, and moderate fat, salt, sugar and calorie intake. Check out the USDA's new My Plate for more information about what and how much to put on your plate every day.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Tagged: diabetes, bacon, processed meats


Matt Schwartz 6 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Matt Schwartz 6 years, 9 months ago

Are most processed things in general leading to diabetes?

jestevens 6 years, 9 months ago

It depends. Here's a good overview of processed foods. Some, like milk, which is pasteurized, are basically healthy (if you're not allergic to it). Others, like canned foods that have a lot of sodium, aren't if you have hypertension, for example.

Here's the link to the overview:

meggers 6 years, 9 months ago

I've never considered pork a red meat, but it makes sense that anything with a high fat and sodium content is not going to be particularly good for you. I love bacon, but I don't eat it very often. I've always wanted to try chocolate-covered bacon. It sounds absolutely scrumptious, and it could officially be considered a dessert. ;)

jestevens 6 years, 9 months ago

Mmmm. Chocolate-covered bacon. Sounds so good I'm almost afraid to try it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.