Replacing Meat with Poultry or Fish Reduces Diabetes Risk

A Danish study followed 53,163 people and found that people can reduce risk for developing diabetes by replacing:

• red meat with poultry

• red meat with fish

• processed meat with fish (European J of Nutrition, Sept 17, 2018:1-8).

This study lists 29 other studies that associate eating meat with increased risk for diabetes, including:

• Eating red meat is associated with higher blood sugar and insulin levels (Am J of Clin Nutr, Nov 1, 2015;102(5):1266-1278).

• Eating processed meat, red meat, refined whole grains (flour), and sugar-sweetened beverages increases risk for diabetes (Eur J Epidemiol, May 2017;32(5):363-375).

• Eating processed meat is associated with a high risk of "impairment in agility and lower-extremity function" that often occurs in diabetics (BMC Medicine, Apr 9, 2018).

• Eating red meat two or more times per week is associated with increased risk for diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr, Oct 2011;94(4):1088-96).

Association between Meats and Diabetes Most people know that eating a diet that includes a lot of added sugar markedly increases risk for diabetes, but a diet that includes regular portions of red meat also increases risk for diabetes, and if you already have diabetes, it can drive blood sugar levels even higher. Insulin drives sugar into cells, and it also drives the building blocks of protein (amino acids) into cells (Biochem J, Nov 1958;70(3):353-358). Eating meat causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise (Diabetes Res Clin Pract, Aug 2011;93 Suppl 1:S52-9).

Another study associating red meat or processed meats with increased risk for diabetes (Journal of Hepatology, March 19, 2018) gave a different explanation. They showed that eating red meat or processed meat is associated with excess fat in the liver that causes high blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes. The authors believe that the most damaging component is heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are formed when the meat is cooked for a long time at high temperatures. A review of three prospective studies showed that the highest association of diabetes with red meat, chicken or fish came when they were cooked at high temperatures without water (grilling/barbecuing, broiling or roasting), and well done rather than rare or medium (Diabetes Care, March 14, 2018). When you cook with water, the sugar in foods combines with water to form harmless byproducts, but cooking without water allows the sugar in meats to combine with proteins and DNA to form HCAs that increase heart attack and cancer risks as well as risk for diabetes.

My Recommendations To reduce risk for developing diabetes, and to help control diabetes if you have already been diagnosed:

• Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, whole (not ground-up) grains and other seeds

• restrict red meat and processed meat

• restrict all sugar-added foods

• restrict all drinks with sugar in them, including fruit juices

• avoid being overweight

• try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day

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