Does Red Meat Cause Diabetes?

Red Meat and Diabetes

A recent research study revealed a potential link between the consumption of red meat and the development of diabetes mellitus.

While carbohydrates are known to be detrimental to both diabetes and weight gain, and excessive fat intake is associated with heart health issues, proteins are typically recommended for purposes such as muscle building, weight loss, and managing diabetes.

Although red meat is a notable source of proteins, there is a growing emphasis on transitioning to a plant-based protein diet due to its perceived health benefits surpassing those of red meat.

Key points of the Study:

  1. Eating red meat regularly, whether it is processed or not, increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
  2. A study with more than 216,000 people discovered that those who ate the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
  3. Both processed (like bacon and sausages) and unprocessed red meat (like beef and pork) are connected to a higher risk of diabetes, with processed red meat having a higher risk than unprocessed.
  4. Swapping one daily serving of red meat with nuts, legumes, or dairy is linked to a much lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  5. The study supports the current advice of cutting down on red meat and emphasizes the importance of choosing other protein sources to lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Does Red Meat Cause Diabetes?

does red meat cause diabetes

Your dietary habits dictate your chances of acquiring diabetes mellitus. Eating too much sugary and processed foods, like sodas and sweets, can lead to high blood sugar levels & insulin resistance, as these are key factors in developing type 2 diabetes.

If you do not move around much and eat poorly, your risk goes up even more.

A sedentary lifestyle (considered as walking less than 5000 steps daily) and eating carbs can make your body struggle to control blood sugar levels [ref]. Your risk of diabetes goes up substantially.

This incidence of diabetes is set to rise greatly in the future as the International Diabetes Federation has predicted that every 1 in 8 adults will be diabetic by 2045.

The latest study has found a clear-cut association between the incidence of diabetes and red meat consumption [ref].

The authors of the study recommend switching from an animal-based protein diet to plant-based proteins.

Around the globe, people indulge in mutton and beef for their dinner on a daily basis. There is no control over portions and servings as there is great negligence among families about the risks of poor dietary habits.

“When we looked at the women and men who consumed the most red meat compared to the least, we found about a 50% increase in risk,” stated the study’s author, Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Red Meat Consumption and Diabetes Risk: Study Methodology

In this research, 216,695 participants were involved, mostly women, from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, we monitored their red meat consumption using food questionnaires every 2 to 4 years.

Researchers identified 22,761 cases of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), and their findings showed a consistent pattern where a higher intake of red meat, whether processed or unprocessed, was linked to an increased risk of T2D.

Comparing those who consumed the most to those who consumed the least, they observed a 62% higher risk for total red meat, 51% for processed red meat, and 40% for unprocessed red meat.

The incidence of diabetes was linearly associated with red meat consumption. The hazard ratio was estimated to be 1.62 for total red meat consumption, 1.51 for processed red meat, and 1.4 for unprocessed red meat.

The hazard ratio is the risk of developing diabetes in individuals who consume red meat vs those who do not. In mathematical terms, it is a ratio of the two, described as:

The incidence of diabetes in people who consume red meat/ incidence of diabetes who do not consume red meat.


Dietary recommendations:

protein rich diet for vegetarians fruits and vegs rich in proteins brittle diabetic diet heart healthy protein foods
Plant-based Proteins

Their findings were against the intake of red meat, and the authors suggested that replacing red meat with other food items is a healthier option.

Alternatives like nuts, legumes, or dairy used instead of red meat resulted in a 29-41% reduction in T2D risk.

Their results match current dietary recommendations, backing the idea of eating less red meat and stressing the importance of choosing different protein sources to prevent Type 2 Diabetes effectively.

To replace red meat in your diet, consider incorporating alternative protein sources such as poultry, fish, as well as eggs, & low-fat dairy products.

Quinoa, a complete protein source, and protein-rich vegetables like broccoli and spinach can also be included.


How Does Red Meat Cause Diabetes?

There are multiple mechanisms for how red meat consumption can affect a person’s biological mechanism to the point that it causes diabetes.

As stated by Dr. Willet, “There’s evidence that heme iron in red meat may damage the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.”

A study from 2014 also explained this connection by concluding that red meat intake had unhealthy impacts on plasma concentrations of inflammatory and glucose metabolic biomarkers in women without diabetes [ref].

Another meta-analysis from 2012 showed that higher ferritin levels and heme-iron intake are both linked to a greater risk of T2DM [ref].

Another inflammatory biomarker, c-reactive protein levels were elevated in the plasma concentrations of individuals who regularly consumed red meat [ref].

Research in the past has found a bidirectional relationship between iron metabolism and type 2 diabetes, suggesting that red meat intake could potentially influence glucose metabolism through iron metabolic pathways [ref].

So, there is not just a single way that red meat could potentially harm a person’s physiology, but in any case, limited consumption is advised.


In Conclusion:

Diets containing meat are generally considered safer than diets containing carbs and fats.

In fact, protein intake is the basis of the following four types of dietary regimens that nutritionists recommend to people with diabetes or prediabetes:

This study highlights the importance of plant-based diets including plant-based protein diets in preventing diabetes.

What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

Here is a link to My Facebook Page. You can also contact me by email at or at My Twitter Account
You can also contact me via WhatsApp 🙏

Mirena and PCOS bipolar disorder and pcos

New Study Reveals Link Between Bipolar Disorder and PCOS

casgevy for sickle cell disease in UK cost

Casgevy for Sickle Cell Disease: The World’s First Gene Therapy Approved in UK