Increasing the number of hamburgers and other red meat people eat on a daily basis is linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes, according to a new study.
"I think the difference is enough to encourage people at least not to increase red meat consumption, and then think about ways to reduce the consumption," said the study's lead author from the National University of Singapore.
The study can't prove eating red meat causes diabetes, but past studies have tied eating it to the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is what happens when the body either does not produce enough insulin or doesn't use it properly to clear sugar from the bloodstream.
For the study, the researchers followed about 149,000 U.S. men and women for 12 to 16 years. Every four years, the participants were asked about how much red meat they ate per day.
Overall, the participants reported eating between half a serving and two servings every day. A serving is equal to about two slices of bacon, one hot dog or one three-ounce hamburger.
By the end of the study, there were 7,540 cases of type 2 diabetes reported. There were 1,758 cases of diabetes among the 41,236 people who didn't change how much red meat they ate on a daily basis.
People who added more than half a serving per day of red meat had about two cases of diabetes per 300 people, compared to about one case in the group who didn't change the amount of red meat they ate.
Decreasing the amount of red meat a person ate was not tied to any differences in the first four years.
But after the researchers took into account factors such as how much red meat people initially ate, whether they were married, and family history of various conditions, eating less red meat was tied to a 14 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next 12 to 16 years.
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, online June 17, 2013.
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