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In conversations about healthy eating, red meat often rides in the back seat. Its reputation was set back once again after a new study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claimed that consumption of both unprocessed and processed red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation fought back, stating its position that red meat, including meat that has been cured or processed, continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet, and that nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence -- not on the latest study that stands in contrast to other research and to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
"The total body of research reflects the fact that we simply don't have any metabolic studies implicating meat consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, " said AMI Foundation president James H. Hodges. "In fact, other epidemiological studies have found no link between eating fresh red meat and type 2 diabetes."
Hodges noted that it is widely understood in the scientific community that type 2 diabetes is a very complex disease with many risk factors, the most prevalent of which is obesity. Singling out individual foods that may be associated with type 2 diabetes ignores the fact that obesity and diabetes have a wide range of genetic, lifestyle, social, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to variations in their prevalence, he argued.
"No one food should be singled out as an increased risk factor for diseases like type 2 diabetes," Hodges continued. "A particular food, for example, may be associated with a lifestyle that can be related to health problems -- such as smoking or inactivity. And it is unfair to paint processed meat products with such a broad brush when it is such a diverse category of products. They come in many different nutrition formulations, whether it's low-fat, lean, fat-free or low-sodium, which allow consumers to make the best choice that meets their own dietary needs."
Hodges also pointed out that the study shows no increased risk with average meat intake. The statistical significance is determined by the groups consuming the most and least amount of meat -- which is important because, on average, Americans are consuming the recommended amount of meat, five to seven ounces per day, according to government data.