Does Eating Red Meat Increase Your Risk for Diabetes?

Is it true that eating red meat increases diabetes risk? New research from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) indicates that people who increased their red meat consumption by about 3.5 servings a week had a 50% increased chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over the following four years. In addition to red meat, processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon were associated with an even higher risk for diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a worldwide epidemic that is linked to obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet. While eating red meat increases diabetes risk, red meat also has other negative health impacts. Eating beef, pork, and lamb is also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even total mortality.

Just as increasing consumption of red meat increases diabetes risk, eating less meat can lower your risk of getting diabetes. The researchers found that individuals who decreased their consumption of red meat lowered their risk of diabetes by 14% during a 10-year period following the decrease. Swapping out a serving of red meat per day for a serving of low-fat dairy, nuts, and whole grains lowered risks between 17% and 24% as well.

If you can’t stand to do away with all red meat, try to limit it as an occasional food. Choose to eat red meat as little as two 3-ounce servings per week.

Ideas for replacing red meats and processed meats include:

Type 2 diabetes can usually be prevented by diet and exercise. Long-term effects of diabetes include eye problems, heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and problems with extremities, including losing fingers and toes. Knowing that red meat increases diabetes risk can help you to make healthy dietary choices to prevent disease.


Pan An et al. Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 Aug 10