Eating Processed Meat Every Day Could Up Diabetes Risk

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PROCESSED MEAT DIABETES
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Those steaks and sausages may be wreaking havoc on your body's ability to produce and use insulin properly, a new study suggests.

A new study conducted by Harvard researchers shows that people who eat one 3.5-ounce serving of processed meat -- equivalent to two slices of bacon, or a hot dog -- every day have a 51 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

And people who eat one 100-gram serving of red, unprocessed meat -- the size of a deck of cards -- a day have a 19 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 25 million people in the U.S., and occurs when the body is unable to produce enough or use the hormone insulin, which is necessary in order for the body to use blood sugar for energy. As a result, the blood contains high levels of sugar. The disease is linked with obesity, and can lead to kidney damage, blindness, stroke and heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers examined the health and diet data of about 37,000 men for 20 years and 80,000 women for 28 years, who were part of large, separate studies. They also combined the data from those studies with data from past studies that included nearly 445,000 people, 28,000 of whom developed Type 2 diabetes.

"The findings are important given the rising epidemic of diabetes and the increasing consumption of red meat," study researcher Dr. Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, told WebMD.

Processed meat might have this effect on diabetes risk because of its high levels of nitrate preservatives, which could in turn increase insulin resistance risk, WebMD reported. Also, red meat usually contains high levels of iron, which is also linked with Type 2 diabetes.

However, Shalene McNeill, a spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, told USA Today that the finding was merely an association -- not a proof of causation.

Red meat consumption has been implicated in disease before. A recent report shows that big meat-eaters have an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. And, past research also shows that it ups the risk of stroke. A 2006 study showed that frequent bacon consumption was linked with bladder cancer.

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