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Processed meat linked to type 2 diabetes mellitus

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By Jimmy Downs

Monday Sept 17, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Eating too much processed meat, particularly SPAM, but not unprocessed red meat may increase risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

American Indians are known to have a high risk for diabetes type 2 and by age 55 years, 50 percent of them develop the disease.  The study was intended to examine the association between consumption of processed meat and unprocessed red meat and risk of diabetes type 2 in this population.

Amanda M. Fretts at University of Washington Cardiovascular Health Research Unit in Seattle, WA and colleagues conducted the study and found those in the highest quartile of processed meat intake were 63 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus during a 5-year follow-up, compared with those in the lowest quartile.   The association was derived after adjustment for other confounders.

The association was particularly significant for SPAM consumption.   Those in the highest quartile of SPAM intake were twice as likely as those in the lowest quartile to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus.

In contrast, those in the highest quartile of unprocessed red meat intake were not at elevated risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus, compared with those in the lowest quartile.

The study was based on data from American Indians enrolled in the Strong Heart Family Study who were free diabetes and cardiovascular disease at baseline and were followed up for five years.  For the study, participants completed a Block food-frequency questionnaire at baseline and cases of diabetes were identified during the five-year follow-up.

The researchers concluded "The consumption of processed meat, such as spam, but not unprocessed red meat, was associated with higher risk of diabetes in AIs, a rural population at high risk of diabetes and with limited access to healthy foods."

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is believed to affect an estimated nearly 30 million Americans. There is no cure for the disease, but with medications, the disease can be controlled.  If untreated, the disease can lead to major complications.  The disease, however, can be easily prevented in many cases by following a healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet.

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