Hold the Bacon! Your Choice of Meat Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Bacon! What a heavenly treat! I like to add it to my salads, but new research out of Harvard is making me rethink this tasty addition. That’s because Harvard researchers have found that if you eat red meat regularly, you’re increasing the chances that you’ll get type 2 diabetes.

    And those chances vary based on what type of red meat you eat. “An average of just one 85-gram (three-ounce) serving of unprocessed red meat – such as a medium hamburger or a small pork chop – per day increased by 12 percent the change a person would get type 2 diabetes over the course of a decade or two,” Scientific American’s Katherine Harmon reported. “And if the meat was processed – such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon – the risk increased to 32 percent, even though serving sizes were smaller.” The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is one of the first studies to research the difference between unprocessed and processed meats. It looked at data from 200,000 adults from three-large scale studies – the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, as well as the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, and also did a meta-analysis of previous studies that included 440,000 men and women who were studied for at least a decade.

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    Type 2 diabetes can be a disease that is increasingly being diagnosed by medical professionals, but can be controlled by lifestyle factors. According to HealthCentral.com’s diabetes site, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this disease, accounting for approximately 90% of the cases. Researchers estimate that approximately 19 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, although about half of those people don’t realize it. The disease is caused “by a complicated interplay of genes, environment, insulin abnormalities, increased glucose production in the liver, increased fat breakdown, and possibly defective hormonal secretions in the intestine,” according to HealthCentral.com.  “The recent dramatic increase indicates that lifestyle factors (obesity and sedentary lifestyle) may be particularly important in triggering the genetic elements that cause this type of diabetes.”

    This disease results in higher mortality rates for those afflicted with it when compared to people who not diabetic, according to HealthCentral.com. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in these cases. In addition, people who have type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for nerve damage and abnormalities in small and large blood vessels, which can produce complications over time in many organs and structures in the body.

    So what lifestyle changes should you make to avoid type 2 diabetes? Experts recommend a diet focused on protecting the heart. These include:

    • For protein, opt for soy, poultry or fish over meat. (Bye, bye bacon!)
    • Avoid saturated fats (animal products) and trans-fatty acids (which are found in many commercial products and fast foods).
    • Add unsaturated fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids found in vegetable and fish oils, to your diet.
    • Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Include fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes and nuts, as your main source of carbohydrates.

    In addition, controlling your weight, stopping smoking, and increasing exercise are very important.

  • The American Diabetes Association has a “Create Your Plate” on-line tool for those who are diabetic or prediabetic. One of the recommendations is to change the amount of food that’s eater. “Focus on filling your plate with non-starchy vegetables and having smaller portions of starchy foods and meats,” the site notes. “Creating your plate is an easy way to get started with managing blood glucose levels.” This plate design really helps you control serving sizes by giving you a visual to use when dolling out portions.

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    Embracing a sound diet and exercise regimen are important to maintaining your health, especially as you age. So hold the bacon -- or at least make it a treat you give yourself on very rare occasions.

Published On: August 23, 2011