Meat eaters at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes

April 24, 2017 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Meat eaters at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland adds to the growing body of evidence indicating that the type of dietary protein you eat may play a role in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Earlier research has linked a high overall intake of protein and animal protein and, in particular, eating plenty of processed red meat in with a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, the influence of protein from different sources for diabetes risk is an understudied topic, prompting the researchers to analyze the link between protein and risk of Type 2 diabetes in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.

At the starting point of the study in 1984-1989, the researchers analyzed the diets of 2,332 men between the ages 42 and 60 who did not have Type 2 diabetes. Over the next 19 years, 432 men were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Diets high in plant protein protective

Men with the highest intake of plant protein were 35 per cent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than were men who consumed the least plant protein. Men with a high intake of plant protein also had healthy lifestyle habits, but lifestyle habits alone did not explain their lower risk of diabetes.

The researchers estimated that replacing approximately 5 grams of animal protein (slightly less than one ounce/28 g of meat) with plant protein (about one-quarter cup of lentils) each day would lower the risk of diabetes by 18 per cent. Eating plant protein was also associated with lower blood glucose (sugar) levels at the beginning of the study, which may explain the link between plant protein and reduced diabetes risk.

In this study, grain products were the main source of plant protein, with other sources being potatoes and other vegetables.

High meat intake increases diabetes risk

The researchers also discovered an association of a high intake of meat with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. The strongest association was seen in the consumption of meat in general, including processed and unprocessed red meat, white meat and other meats. The link between eating meat and having a greater risk of diabetes is likely caused by other compounds other than protein found in meat, since meat protein was not associated with diabetes risk.

The intake of overall protein, animal protein, fish protein or dairy protein were not associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. The association of egg protein was found to be similar to the research group's earlier findings relating to the consumption of eggs: a higher intake was associated with a lower risk.

The findings indicate that eating a diet that emphasizes plant protein could help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition, April 11, 2017.

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