Red Meat on the Chopping Block

Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: Three cohorts of US men and women. By An Pan and colleagues. JAMA Internal Medicine 2013;173:1328–1335

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Several studies have suggested that eating too much red meat is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, researchers typically only measure red meat consumption at a single time point. That strategy may be flawed because the eating habits of individuals are known to change over time, so a single measurement at the start of a study may not reflect red meat consumption over the years.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

The researchers wanted to see whether type 2 diabetes is linked to changes in red meat consumption over time to either support or refute the theory that red meat can raise the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Who was studied?

The researchers included 26,357 men and 48,709 women from one study, and 74,077 women from another study.

How was the study done?

The researchers asked participants to fill out food frequency questionnaires every 4 years over a couple of decades. They also monitored the participants' health over that period.

What did the researchers find?

Increasing red meat intake over a 4-year period by half a serving a day was associated with a 48 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the following 4 years, relative to keeping red meat intake constant. Reducing red meat intake was associated with a 14 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Accounting for changes in weight reduced, but did not eliminate, the link between red meat and diabetes.

What were the limitations of the study?

This study strengthens the link between red meat and diabetes, but still cannot prove that red meat causes type 2 diabetes.

What are the implications of the study?

Limiting red meat in the diet may help lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes

  • Last Reviewed: January 15, 2014
  • Last Edited: January 15, 2014

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