Eating as little as two servings of red meat per week is associated with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, researchers have found.
The findings from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health advocate reducing red meat consumption.
The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used comprehensive health data from 216,695 participants.
People were asked to complete questionnaires about their diet every two to four years, for up to 36 years. During this time, more than 22,000 developed Type 2 diabetes.
The study found those who consumed the most red meat experienced a 62 per cent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison to minimal consumers.
Every additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46 per cent greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
“Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat,” said first author Xiao Gu, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition.
The research also explored alternative protein sources, finding that replacing a serving of red meat with plant-based proteins such as nuts and legumes led to a 30 per cent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.
“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 optimise their health and well-being,” said senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition.
The findings come at a time when Type 2 diabetes rates are increasing across the globe.
The disease is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and kidney disease, cancer and dementia.