Eating 30% less of one type of meat could prevent future type 2 diabetes: ScienceAlert

Hot dogs are an iconic part of American food culture. While they bring joy to many, new research shows that processed meats are also linked to some of the country’s most common diseases.

According to recent estimates, the average American should be extra careful about eating processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and salami.

For some this advice may be hard to swallow, but if loss can be accepted, great gains can be made.

Public health data suggests that a 30 percent reduction in processed meat over the next decade — cutting out about 61 grams (2.1 ounces) per week — could prevent 352,900 cases of type 2 diabetes, 92,500 cases of cardiovascular disease, 53,300 cases of colorectal cancer and 16,700 deaths from all causes.

Even if processed meat intake were reduced by just 5 percent nationally, models suggest there would still be public health benefits, albeit smaller ones.

More research is needed to substantiate the findings, but scientists from the University of Edinburgh in the UK and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that given the high levels of sodium and saturated fat in processed meat, “most meat and poultry intake should come from fresh, frozen or canned forms, rather than processed meat.”

Compared to unprocessed red meat, such as ground beef or tenderloin, processed meat is more strongly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

But despite the lack of conclusive studies on unprocessed red meat, the authors of the current study found tentative signs that eating processed meat or Unprocessed red meat can have negative long-term health effects.

Using population health and nutrition data from 8,665 individuals, the international research team created a “microsimulation” of more than 242 million adults in the US.

At the start of the study, researchers found that processed meat consumption in the US was about 29 grams per day, while unprocessed red meat consumption was about 46.7 grams per day.

Models suggest that a 30 percent reduction both The types measured (total of 8.7 grams of processed meat and 14 grams of unprocessed red meat per day) could lead to more than a million fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 382,400 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, 84,400 fewer cases of colorectal cancer, and 62,200 fewer deaths from all causes over a 10-year period.

Microsimulation models are sometimes considered “theoretically analogous to randomized controlled trials,” but the recent sample of subjects was quite diverse in their consumption of unprocessed red meat, limiting the sensitivity of the analysis.

The results for processed meat are more convincing.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified processed meat as “carcinogenic.” A 2021 meta-analysis found that eating 50 grams of processed meat per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting processed meat consumption to about 3.5 ounces per week, or about 0.5 ounces per day.

According to the recent microsimulation, those recommendations could be even stricter.

Despite mounting findings linking processed meat consumption to chronic health effects, national processed meat intake in the US has not declined over the past two decades.

With diabetes now affecting nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population and nearly 30 percent of people over 65, this one change in their diet could help millions of people live healthier lives.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americanswhich will be updated in 2025, form the basis for U.S. federal food policy and govern food assistance programs, school meals, and nutrition education in elementary school.

A specific recommendation to reduce processed meat intake could therefore “have widespread implications, particularly for children and adolescents in the US,” the study authors conclude.

The research was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

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