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10-02-2011 | Diabetes | Article

Low-carb diets high in red or processed meat raise risk for Type 2 diabetes


Free abstract

MedWire News: Consumption of low-carbohydrate diets high in red or processed meat are associated with an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes in men, report US researchers.

As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Frank Hu (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts) and colleagues carried out a prospective cohort study of 40,475 men taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The men were free from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline and were followed-up for up to 20 years.

The researchers created three low-carbohydrate diet scores (high total protein and fat, high animal protein and fat, and high vegetable protein and fat - all highest versus lowest quintile) from validated food-frequency questionnaire responses.

After adjusting for age, smoking status, physical activity, coffee and alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, total energy intake, and body mass index, high animal protein and fat intake in combination with a low carbohydrate diet increased the risk for Type 2 diabetes by a significant 37% compared with low animal protein and fat intake.

However, adjustment for consumption of red or processed meat weakened this association significantly, suggesting that consumption of this type of meat was largely to blame for the increased diabetes risk.

High total protein and fat intake also appeared to increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes, but as this link was clearly being driven by red or processed meat intake, no further analysis was carried out with this score.

High vegetable protein and fat intake did not increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes and, in fact, appeared to moderately decrease this risk in men aged 65 years or below (hazard ratio=0.78).

Low-carbohydrate diets have recently received attention, as they usually involve consuming an increased amount of protein, which is associated with satiety. This can help overweight or obese individuals with weight loss.

Hu and colleagues suggest that if advised to follow such a diet, people should aim to obtain the majority of their dietary protein from vegetable rather than animal sources and should try and steer clear of too much red or processed meat.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Helen Albert