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Eating too much red meat may raise risk of diabetes mellitus type 2

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By Jimmy Downs

Friday Oct 19, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Men and women who have high intake of heme iron and increased body iron stores are at significantly higher risk for diabetes mellitus type 2, according to a meta-analysis in BMC Medicine.  

W. Bao and colleagues conducted the systemic review and found men and women who had the highest intake of heme iron were at 33 percent increased risk for diabetes mellitus type 2, compared to those who had the lowest intake.

On the other hand, the researchers did not find an association between dietary total iron, non-heme iron, or supplemental iron intakes  and risk of diabetes mellitus type 2.

Heme iron is found in meat, particularly in red meat.  The study essentially suggests that eating meat increases risk of diabetes mellitus.

The authors say excess iron is known to induce diabetes in animal models although human epidemiological studies looking at body iron stores and iron intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus are not all consistent.

For the current study, researchers searched PUBMED?MEDLINE and EMBASE databases for studies published prior to the end of April 22, 2012.  And 449 reports were reviewed and 11 prospective studies were included in the meta-analysis.  

An analysis of data from five studies resulted in an association between the highest level of heme iron intake and 33 percent increased risk of diabetes mellitus type 2.  To be exact, a daily increment of 1 mg of heme iron intake was associated with 16 percent increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Additionally, body iron stores including iron in ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) and the sTfR:ferritin ratio, were significantly correlated with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. 

The association of ferritin levels with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus was particularly strong.  

Men and women with the highest intake of ferritin were 70 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to develop diabetes mellitus type 2 before adjustment for inflammatory markers and 63 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to develop diabetes after the adjustment.

Total iron, non-heme or iron supplements were not associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus, though.
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