Eating red meat just twice a week may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new Harvard University study. Meanwhile, data shows that a relatively small percentage of people eat a disproportionate amount of all red meat consumed in the U.S.
And the more red meat consumed, the greater the risk becomes.
For this study, Harvard researchers analyzed health data from more than 210,000 people who filled out food questionnaires every two to four years for up to 36 years. During this time, more than 22,000 of the participants developed type 2 diabetes.
The results showed that people who ate the most red meat had a 62% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least.
Every additional serving of processed red meat consumed daily was associated with a 46% higher risk, and every extra serving of unprocessed meat was linked to a 24% greater risk.
Conversely, the researchers determined that swapping just one daily serving of red meat for a plant-based protein source significantly lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Opting for a serving of nuts and legumes instead, for example, was associated with a 30% lower risk.
“Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving per week of red meat would be reasonable for people wishing to optimize their health and wellbeing,” said senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard.
This news may be of interest to the cohort of people who consume the most red meat in the U.S.—a group which is actually shockingly small.
Even though the U.S. consumes more beef than any other country, just 12% of people are responsible for half of all beef consumption on any given day, according to another new study.
These “disproportionate beef eaters,” as defined by the researchers, eat more than four ounces—approximately one hamburger—of red meat daily. Men, white people, and those between the ages of 50 and 65 were most likely to be in this category.
The researchers analyzed dietary information from more than 10,000 U.S. adults over a four-year period to gather these insights. They found that college graduates, older adults, and those who had consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate nutrition campaign, were significantly less likely to be disproportionate beef eaters.
For reference, the USDA recommends limiting consumption of meat, poultry, and egg products to less than four ounces total per day. The researchers found that, on average, teenage boys exceed these guidelines, but the distance from the recommendations among adult men is even greater.