Diabetes: red meat or poultry increases the risk, not fish

One of the largest studies of this type in Asia reports that the consumption of red meat, but also that of poultry, is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

High consumption of red meat, essentially in a Western-style consumption pattern, has been associated with an increased risk of several conditions, including type 2 diabetes. This time it’s from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, a population-based study including 63,257 Chinese adults aged 45-74. It was led by Prof. Koh Woon Puay (Duke-NUS Medical School) and his team, and data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology cover an average follow-up period of 10.9 years.

Less red meat and poultry, more fish and seafood

The study finds a positive association between red meat and poultry intake and the risk of developing diabetes. Compared to those in the lowest quartile for consumption of red meat and poultry, those in the highest quartile see their risk of diabetes increase:

– 23% for red meat and

– 15% for poultry.

Consumption of fish and seafood is not associated with the risk of diabetes. The authors further note that the increased risk associated with red meat and poultry is mitigated when these foods are replaced with fish and/or seafood.

Chicken breast instead of thigh

To go further in understanding the mechanism by which meat and diabetes could be linked, the researchers also looked at heme iron, tipped as a potential actor, coming from all meat/poultry. And they found a positive dose-dependent association.

However, after adjusting for heme iron content, the association between red meat and diabetes remains, suggesting that other characteristics of red meat may be involved. On the other hand, for poultry, this adjustment makes the association disappear, suggesting that in this case, heme iron is indeed the responsible element. This leads the authors to favor the breast, which is less rich in iron, over poultry thighs!

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Talaei M. et al., Meat, Dietary Heme Iron, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The Singapore Chinese Health StudyAm J Epidem, Published 22 August 2017.


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