When it comes to diabetes, what’s on your plate matters a whole awful lot.
Bad news: You might want to break up with your daily bacon habit. A massive study suggests that chowing down on just one serving of meat a day could lead to diabetes down the road.
The study tracked 45,411 ethnic Chinese people aged between 45 and 74 years from 1999 to 2010. Using a questionnaire that covered 165 food items (33 of which were meat), researchers interviewed participants about their dietary habits and food consumption.
At the end of the study, about 5,200 of the participants had diabetes. Data reported that just one palm-sized serving of meat increased the risk of diabetes by 23 percent for red meat and 15 percent for the dark meat found in poultry. On the flip side, eating this one food can lower your risk of diabetes.
Research of Western populations have reached similar conclusions; a 2011 Harvard study found that a daily serving of red meat increased the risk of adulthood diabetes by 19 percent.
It’s likely that dietary haem iron found in red or dark meat causes the health hazard, according to Koh Woon Puay, lead author of the study and professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School. Although the body quickly absorbs haem iron, excessive levels of the nutrient can damage tissues, including those that produce insulin in the pancreas—which could lead to diabetes.
Meat, poultry, seafood and fish contain high levels of haem iron. Thankfully, you can still get your daily dose of iron via the non-haem version, which is found in both meat and plant-based foods like dark green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
But when push comes to shove, meat lovers don’t have to quit cold turkey (pun intended!)
We don’t need to remove meat from the diet entirely,” Professor Koh said. Instead, try “to reduce the daily intake, especially of red meat, and choose chicken breast, fish or shellfish, or plant-based protein food and dairy products to reduce the risk of diabetes.