Does going meatless lower risk of diabetes?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • In the last several years nutrition experts have raised awareness about the benefits of going meatless some of the time.  For committed carnivores this habit can sound impossible, but not if you decide to do it once or twice a week.  And now with textured soy and other meatless protein options like fish, beans and legumes and eggs and egg whites, as well as high protein pastas and grains like quinoa, there's a variety of non-meat options to choose from.  According to a recent study, swapping out a meat-based entrée for nuts may have a special benefit. 


    Previous studies have linked consumption of red meat, especially processed or burnt red meats, to cancers.  Harvard researchers have now linked consumption of processed red meats to an increased risk of developing diabetes type  2.  The same study, led by An Pan and Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, showed that specifically replacing these highly processed red meats with healthier proteins like low fat dairy products, whole grain and nuts, can lower the risk.  The study reviewed questionnaires filled out by 79,570 women followed in the Nurses' Health Study I, 37,083 men followed in the Health Professionals Follow Up Study and over 97,000 women followed in the Nurses Health Study II.  After adjusting for a variety of factors, the researchers looked at 28,228 individuals (out of 442,101 total individuals) who developed diabetes type 2 during the time intervals of the three studies.  The researchers found that consuming a 100 gram serving (deck of cards size) of unprocessed red meat daily was associated with a 19% increased risk of developing diabetes type 2.  Consuming half the size of that portion but this time processed red meat, increased the risk of developing diabetes to 51%.

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    Substituting one serving of nuts per day in lieu of the red meat meant a 21% lower risk of developing diabetes type 2; substituting a serving of low-fat dairy lowered the risk by 17% and substituting whole grains lowered the risk by 23%.  And "more is better," meaning more days of healthier protein choices instead of eating processed red meat can have a huge impact on improving your health profile, from a diabetes-risk perspective.  But if that is an overwhelming pressure, then just commit to one day a week of a swap out, for several weeks, and then add additional meat free days, including fish, whole grains, low fat and fat free dairy products, eggs and egg whites and especially nuts.  Just remember that every protein has a proper serving size.  Because certain foods are healthier is not a license to go nuts when it comes to serving sizes!!

Published On: September 28, 2011