Eating Meat Increases Diabetes | Natural Health Blog

Date: 09/21/2017    Written by: Beth Levine

Meat and Diabetes

Eating Meat Increases Diabetes | Natural Health Blog

Type 2 diabetes is an all-too-common condition. These days, more than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and many millions more have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We know that certain risk factors for diabetes are within our control, such as being overweight or obese and lack of physical activity. The foods we eat are important too, and it’s best to avoid items that are high in sugar. But new research suggests that there may be another, less expected culprit to watch out for on our plates.

Glucotor v.2 from Baseline Nutritionals

The study, which was conducted at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, found that consumption of meat, and to a lesser extent poultry, is linked to a greater risk of developing diabetes.1 These results were based on data relating to 63,257 men and women between the ages of 45 and 74  who participated in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. They were tracked for 11 years, during which time they provided information on their eating habits and medical records.

After comparing the subjects’ diets with diagnoses of diabetes, the investigators discovered that meat intake was a significant risk factor. In fact, the volunteers who consumed the most red meat were shown to have a 23 percent increased risk of developing diabetes, and those who consumed the most poultry had a risk 15 percent higher than their peers who ate the least of these meats.

Why would red meat and poultry influence the likelihood of developing diabetes, which is a condition related to a failure to produce enough insulin or use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels? The researchers theorize that a contributing factor may be the heme iron present in these foods. Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron, which is present in plant-based foods, and red meat is a particularly rich source. But even dark meat poultry, such as the thighs and drumsticks, has a relatively high heme iron content. The body cannot regulate the rate of absorption of heme iron, resulting in excess stores accumulating in people whose intake is high. Heme iron intake was found in a 2013 study at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain to raise the risk of new-onset diabetes.2 It should be noted that the presence of heme iron is independent of whether the meat is high or low fat, organic or non-organic, free-range or caged, or even whether it’s grilled or baked—all factors that affect other health risks.

Therefore, the takeaway from the current research is yet another reason to eliminate or at least cut back on meat in your diet. Besides diabetes, red meat consumption has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Chicken is somewhat of a better choice, particularly if you buy an organic, antibiotic-free variety. And stick with forms of white meat, such as the breasts and thighs, which contain significantly less heme iron. As for fish, yes it contains heme iron, but much less than meat—only about 10-15% of your RDA per serving.

Other, non-animal sources of protein can be easily added to your diet. Certain plant-based foods provide adequate amounts of protein, with no heme iron at all. A few good options are tofu, lentils, black beans, peanuts, chickpeas, and almonds.

Reducing meat consumption can also help keep your weight in check, as eating red meat was shown in a 2009 study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland to be associated with obesity,3 which is another major risk factor for developing diabetes. Even if you want to keep an occasional piece of red meat on the menu—as long as it is organic and grass fed—it probably won’t have too much of an impact (occasional being defined as once a month or so, not once or twice a week). Processed meats, on the other hand, truly do not belong in anyone’s diet. These foods, such as bacon and cold cuts, are high in dangerous nitrates, and have been found to elevate the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

So try cutting back on your meat and poultry consumption and focus on adding even one fully plant-based dish to your menu per week. Even low-mercury fish is a healthier option. You can increase that a little at a time to adjust slowly. With so many great recipes out there, introducing more vegetarian meals has never been easier. Do some research before your next trip to the supermarket and plan ahead for a meatless meal or two—or adding a little more fish to your diet. It’s a great choice to make to benefit your health!

  • 1. Talaei, Mohammad; et al. "Meat, Dietary Heme Iron, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The Singapore Chinese Health Study." American Journal of Epidemiology. 22 August 2017. Accessed 13 September 2017.
  • 2. Fernandez-Cao, Jose Candido; et al. "Heme iron intake and risk of new-onset diabetes in a Mediterranean population at high risk of cardiovascular disease: an observational cohort analysis." BMC Public Health. 4 November 2013. Accessed 13 September 2017.
  • 3. Wang Y. and Beydoun, MA. "Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults." International Journal of Obesity. 24 March 2009. Accessed 14 September 2017.

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    Submitted by Vilma DSoyza on
    October 3, 2017 - 9:00am
    Toronto ,

    I have pre diabetes

    Submitted by mary on
    October 3, 2017 - 3:54pm

    very timely article on diabetes2. Just the info I needed

    Submitted by DM on
    October 4, 2017 - 2:05pm

    It is indeed disappointing that you would offer such advice as to mostly avoid all red meat for all people. That is just very bad advice and incorrect and this study is bogus. You are doing what ignorant drug pushing conventional doctors do, which is to take a poorly done study and make wild generalizations, e.g. "The China Study" - a terribly done study that makes wild generalizations and concludes all animal protein causes cancer and is bad for health.

    This study is bogus for 3 main reasons:
    1. The study did not take into account the source of the red meat. Was it grass fed? Was it organic? We dont know. This makes a massive difference in both the nutritional content of the red meat and the toxin content of the red meat.
    2. The study does not take into account how the red meat was prepared. Was it heavily cooked? Grilled on a barbeque? baked? lightly cooked? Was it charred? Again we dont know and it makes a massive difference in the health of the red meat and toxin content of the red meat.
    3. The study does not take into account the metablic nature of the participants. Very good research indicates for example that people with parasympathetic dominant autonomic nervous systems tend to be too alkaline and need an acid forming diet, and nothing is better than grass fed, lightly cooked (or even raw), organic red meat for this purpose. Of course not all people thrive well on red meat, but some people do when it is from the right source and prepared the right way.

    I would suggest reading this book: "Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System" by Dr. Nick Gonzalez to better understand that many people (probably at least 25% of people) actually need to eat healthy organic grass fed properly prepared red meat nearly every day and some people need it 3 meals a day. Dr. Gonzalez goes into great detail as to why this is the case and he had great success with some of his cancer patients who consume healthy raw red meat 3 meals a day!

    Your analysis of the study is also questionable. The study is talking about type 2 diabetes, not type 1 and type 2 is NOT a lack of insulin or not being able to produce enough insulin - it is in fact too much insulin in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is basically insulin resistance 99% of the time. If type 2 diabetics are given insulin bad things happen like sometimes they actually develop Type 1 diabetes! Type 2 diabetes is also 99% reversible and it is an absolute failure of the medical field that we now have about 20 million type 2 diabetics in the US. There should be far less but conventional doctors are ignorant drug pushers and dont understand real medicine, which is nutrition and lifestyle.

    I agree with you that all non organic CAFO red meat should absolutely be avoided always by all people. It is toxic junk meat and should be avoided.

    Im sorry for being so negative - I love Jon Barron and have learned a LOT from him but occasionally you all put out pretty bad articles such as your article a year or so ago on folic acid where you did not take into account the huge differences between real folate and oxidized, synthetic, non methylated folic acid - you should have reprinted the article and corrected your advice.

    Thank you for everything you do, but we are all human and we all make mistakes. I believe this article is a mistake.


    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 6, 2017 - 10:39am

    Thank you for your comments, I will forward this to Beth, the author of this report. One thing you missed is this statement: "It should be noted that the presence of heme iron is independent of whether the meat is high or low fat, organic or non-organic, free-range or caged, or even whether it’s grilled or baked—all factors that affect other health risks."  We report on all studies, even ones that you may not agree with because our ultimate goal is to keep our readers informed.  You can decide on how you chose to change or modify your diet, if at all.  

    Submitted by DM on
    October 18, 2017 - 8:55am

    Im not complaining that you all covered the study but that you agreed with it. Many studies such as this need to be red-flagged by people like Jon Barron, who many listen to for dietary advice, for the wild generalizations that are made and the massive ignorance that goes along with the generalizations. It is a very poor study for determining all red meat is bad for all people all the time there is no such study done well that shows this that im aware of and i live in the medical literature - it is doubtful i would be unaware of such a study.

    its also terrible advice to tell people to consume tofu and peanuts - both very questionable for health. tofu, unless organic, will likely be highly contaminated with roundup/glyphosate. peanuts are loaded with lectins that are not destroyed by heat and are very high in unhealhy omega 6 fats and are almost always moldy. and if not organic, peanuts are also on the no-no list for pesticide contamination because they are usually heavily sprayed with pesticides. this is not good advice. im shocked Jon Barron would be giving or agreeing with this advice.

    the article is correct for highlighting the problems with too much Iron - which is a huge potential issue. HUGE. but then gives no ways of reducing iron except to remove meat. there are very good other ways to reduce iron, such as donating blood regularly.


    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 20, 2017 - 6:38pm

    On this site, organic is always the preference. We don’t always repeat it when referring to every food or herb for the same reason that you referred to “red meat” rather than “organic, grass fed red meat.” If people are eating growth hormone, antibiotic laced meat, that’s really unhealthy. That said, we understood what you meant, the same as any reader of our site understands what we mean. This site, of course, has always stressed using organic, free range, and wildcrafted when possible. 


    As for soy and peanuts, this was a blog about one study concerning iron heme and diabetes, not the dangers associated with soy and peanuts. For more on those issues, you need to check out the articles specifically related to them. For example:


    Lastly, reporting on the impact of red meat and diabetes could be important information for many of our readers, especially those who are diabetic.  The study does not make "wild generalizations" about eating meat for all people, as you suggest.  We like to empower people with information so they can make the best dietary choice for their particular health need.  If it does not apply to you, then simply disregard.  


    Hope this helps.


    Submitted by Bruce on
    October 6, 2017 - 9:19pm
    Brownwood , Texas

    Interesting but by far one of my least worries when it comes to diabetes. Too much red meat and not enough fiber in the diet can cause many health issues. Pre-menopausal women need the iron from moderate red meat consumption. Men need to be careful about that oxidative burden. Heart disease and damage to any system in the body is possible by too much iron. One reason I give blood on a regular basis. Diabetes concern? No so much.

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