Burger Nation: Avoid Red Meat, Diabetes Risk

New study strongly supports moderation

burger up close

New research about red meat consumption may make you pass on that burger. While there’s nothing new about eating habits being closely linked to rates of type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes, a new study underscores this link.

A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that people who ate less red meat saw a decline over time in their risk of developing diabetes, while those who ate more red meat saw just the opposite – heightened risk for developing diabetes.

“When you decrease your intake of red meat, you’re having a direct impact on your risk of developing diabetes, even though you might not see it immediately,” says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, a staff member of the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Cleveland Clinic. “This demonstrates how much you’re able to control your overall health by making good food choices.”

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Closely linked

So just how strong is the link between red meat and diabetes?

  • People who increased their red meat intake by more than a half serving per day had a 48 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • People who reduced their red meat intake by more than a half serving per day had a 14 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Study researchers analyzed results from diet questionnaires taken by nearly 150,000 people who were tracked for more than 20 years by staff members at the Harvard School of Public Health.

That survey had already shown the connection between eating red meat and rates of heart disease, stroke and colorectal cancers.

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In this newest study, researchers analyzed the changes in diet and rates of diabetes over four-year periods, directly comparing the two between each four-year period. “This demonstrates just how strong the connection between the two really is,” says Dr. Hatipoglu.

What people need to remember

Dr. Hatipoglu’s message to patients is simple and critical to long-term health: Eat red meats in moderation, balanced by plenty of whole grains, healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables.

“We have to be very conscientious about what we put in our mouths, and moderation in eating red meat is very important,” she says. “Consuming less red meat doesn’t just correspond to lower rates of diabetes. It’s also linked to better cardiovascular health and reductions in overall mortality.”

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  • jd

    Why do these types of studies never consider the source of the red meat? Does anybody really think that the meat coming from a hormone and antibiotic-riddled cow that was stuffed with corn everyday so it would fatten up in a third of its natural time and the meat coming from a cow raised on grass in its natural timeframe would produce the same quality of meat? Sadly, there is a much greater quantity of crap meat being produced than there is healthy meat.

  • seewick

    I don’t understand why you guys keep recommending bread as a healthy choice. Our modern gluten causes inflammation one of the greatest causes of illness.

    • shanob

      And sugar as well. Highly inflammatory. Especially our genetically engineered sugars like HFCS and GM sugar beets, these two are the majority of sugars in our food supply in the US.

  • Walt Willoughby

    From someone who was diagnosed with coronary artery disease I can say that cutting all meat (not just red) and all animal products along with all oil from my diet has made all the difference in the world. My new tests are showing no new plaques and actually are starting to show reversal of the disease. This is study is nothing but common sense and the knowledge that meat and oil is really bad for the heart have been with us for years.

    • shanob

      You need healthy fats for proper brain function. You might look into adding a T. of hemp oil, coconut oil, flax oil, sesame oil or olive to your diet. You need Omega 3s!

      • Walt Willoughby

        I appreciate your comment and I agree one needs healthy fats in their diet and I thank you for your concern. But, why did you automatically recommended getting these fats from oil? Oil being
        healthy is hype. Oil is not healthy. Studies argue that olive oil is healthy because it contains polyphenols, but all plant foods contain polyphenols with much less calories. Olive oil and all oil contain 100% of their calories from fat. Fat leads to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer. And the only fat our body has an essential need to consume is omega 6 and omega 3 in a ratio of 2:1 which takes a good diet to achieve. All oil except canola oil (canola oil is sometime fortified) are poor sources of omega 3 and high in omega 6 reversing the optimal ratio to
        10-20:1 and increasing health risks. You would have to drink 7 ounces of olive oil to get the daily sufficient amount of omega 3 and that is far more than a tablespoon. 7 ounces of olive oil is 1800 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat, which is unhealthy for our blood and the heart and exceeds the American heart association’s guidelines for saturated fat per day. A person only needs about
        7% to 12% of their calories from fat despite what the guidelines say. People taking in this level of fat rarely have heart disease or cancer. Most all oils are either right there with olive oil or worse. One study found people who replaced butter with olive oil had less heart events. Olive oil is better than butter (butter is higher in saturated fat amazing because olive oil is very high in saturated fat) but that does not make olive oil good or healthy and explains why they had less heart events. The study does not prove olive oil is good for the heart. The study only shows that olive oil is better for health
        than butter. But, better is not the same as healthy. Oil (even from animals) can even raise blood sugar levels as well, thus the article. I
        get my omega 3 and omega 6 fats from whole plant based foods. Olive oil contains mainly omega 6 fatty acids with very little omega 3 which is unhealthy for the arteries and can increase calcium
        build up. I use flaxseed meal, a small < 1 ounce serving of walnuts about once a week and I will splurge and eat about 1/4 of an avocado about twice a month. I also will use a very small amount of tahini when I make hummus. I get good fats in whole form from plants. This is the healthiest way (soybeans, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans and so on). No need for fish either because fish store omega-3 fats made by algae. Fish cannot synthesize this kind of fat along with all animals. So I also include sea plants in my diet. The products that make the oils you mentioned do contain omega 3 and omega 6 fats. Eating the
        whole food gives the body all of the omega 3 and omega 6 fats it needs in proper ratio without the calories of oil when a wide range of plants are eaten. Oil being 100% fat with trace amounts of good fats but high in omega 6 fats meets the definition of junk food. And,
        processed oils have been linked, though more study is needed, to a constriction in the arteries and veins leading to damage of the artery lining leading to more ruptures causing heart attack clots. Taking in too much omega 6 fats without omega 3 fats, as said causes clots, constriction of the arteries, worsens arthritis, aggravates skin
        disease (psoriasis), increases hormone levels of insulin like growth factor -1 that causes certain cancers and also as said may block a person’s ability to respond to insulin causing diabetes and obesity. Sorry for the seemingly lecture. But I have been doing this along time and my health and brain function is great. I do, however, appreciate your concern. I just wanted to show you and other readers that good fats can and should come from whole forms of plants without all the calories of oil. Maybe one day the hype about oil will be cleared up. Most medical professional, but not all, have
        fallen for the hype of “healthy oils”. I think the population wants oils to be good because eliminating them from one’s
        diet seems and is hard, like someone trying to quite smoking. But one does learn to cook without the junk food we call processed eatable oils from plant sources and the food tastes better and
        we can eat way more of it without health harm.

        • shanob

          Some people need more of these good fats than others. I feel best when I use hemp oil daily, cold pressed and organic.

          I do not use canola oil because virtually all of it is from GMO canola, to the point where even the wild populations or naturalized canola plants contain Genetically Modified DNA.

          I also think that ‘cultured’ organic butter is a very good fat. I use cultured vegetables and kombucha tea to get massive doses of probiotics each day. This is something else that will improve your health in every way.

          • Walt Willoughby

            Sahnob what a good point about the hemp oil!
            Eating Cold Pressed Hemp Oil is the only way to go. You have made a great point with it. It is a better oil containing a 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 and that’s not too bad and almost perfect. One only needs a couple of tablespoons to get their daily requirements of Essential Fatty Acids. It also contains GLA and SDA which does help brain function. If I were to eat oil that would be my choice. However due to its smoke point, it is not suitable for frying. Thank you for bringing that oil to my attention! Cannabis is really one of nature’s best kept health secrets. It is always good to break from one’s own bias. Your blogs have helped me with that (though I still think most oils are bad for health).
            On the other hand, Canola being GMO is a myth created from the olive oil industry. Canola is a hybrid and was created by breeding black mustard, leaf mustard and turnip rapseed. For something to be considered GMO it has to be genetically altered at the molecular level using techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering (bad stuff agreeded). Canola is a hybrid plant and not genetically modified. Some say that rapeseed contains high levels of erucic acid which is toxic and use that as an excuse for not eating Canola oil. Pure Rapeseed oil (Erucic Acid) is toxic and was banned for human consumption by the FDA in 1956. Canola Oil, according to the Havard School of Public Health is considered to be the healthist oil on the market. I think your choice to use hemp is a better one than Canola anyway.
            My prefence is to leave out the oil and eat more plants but that is my own choice and not for everyone. I actually get way more of the of the good fatty acids than is required. Again, though, most oils, only contain trace amounts of the fatty acids and are out of balance between omega 3 and omega 6. And, again, thank you for your insight into the hemp oil. But nontheless we all eat as we think is healthy. I have enjoyed our exchanges. You forced me to go back into my research and tests notes. It was fun.
            To health and long life!

          • shanob

            I was a farmer for 30 years. And yes, Canola is now all GMO, it is now genetically modified to resist Round Up ™. Round Up Ready Canola was modified from the plant you are writing about.

            Do some research yourself, but this is well known and on the list of GMO foods commonly found in America. Corn, soy, canola, papaya, cotton, sugar beets (which is most of our sugar in the US).

            Most generic vegetable oils and margarines used in restaurants and in processed foods in North America are made from soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed. Unless these oils specifically say “Non-GMO” or “Organic,” it is probably genetically modified

  • shanob

    All these studies are done with CAFO beef. Cattle finished in feed lots have a changed ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fat, this is what is bad for people to eat. They put a pellet under the skin of these cattle, behind the ear, that is a slow release cocktail of drugs to stimulate growth until they are slaughtered.

    If you eat grass fed beef, you are getting very healthy fats, more Omega 3s than 6. No steroids, no antibiotic residues. No drugs.

    I would like the medical world to do a real study on these factors, because these two kinds of beef are very different altogether.