Meat Free Monday One day a week can make a world of difference

Red meat twice a week increases risk of diabetes

... while replacing it with alternative proteins decreases it, according to a new Harvard study

Posted : 14 November 2023

No longer the ruddy-cheeked bastion of roast beef and steak and ale pie, Britain appears to be going off its meat … which is good news for those concerned about diabetes. A new study has shown that just two servings of red meat a week can increase your risk of developing the disease, while choosing a plant-based alternative can lower it, as previous studies have shown.

Researchers used the data of almost 217,000 people who had taken part in three health studies in the UK and the US asked them to fill in a questionnaire every two to four years about what they ate, when and how much. Over the course of 36 years, more than 22,000 people developed type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that leads to high amounts of sugar in the blood.

For those whose appetite for red meat was greatest, the risk of developing diabetes was 62 higher than for those who ate the least amount – and the risk grows with each portion. The researchers calculated that every extra daily serving of unprocessed red meat – beef, lamb or pork – bumped up the chance of developing diabetes by 24 per cent, while extra servings of processed red meat – anything preserved by chemicals, smoking, curing or salting – was linked with a 46 per cent greater risk.

But swap a Sunday roast for a nut roast, a bacon buttie for a bean burger, and it’s a different story. The study found that replacing red meat with a serving of nuts or legumes was associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The research, conducted by the department of nutrition at America’s Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adds to the growing body of evidence about the link between diabetes and red meat, which is also one of the worst in environmental terms.

Lead author Xiao Gu, a postdoctoral research fellow, said: “Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat.”

Read the report

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