Study: Replacing processed or red meat with plant-based foods may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

Diabetes poses considerable health risks and its prevalence is increasing daily worldwide. Risk factors for diabetes include diet, physical activity, and obesity.

An animal-based diet high in processed or red meat increases the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes. In contrast, a fiber-rich plant-based diet protects against diabetes. To date, there are limited data on the effect of switching from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet on the risk of type 2 diabetes.

processed meat

In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers assessed the relationship between moderate partial replacement of processed and red meat intake with equivalent proportions of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Association between type 2 diabetes risk in Finns.

In the present study, researchers investigated whether a partial transition from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet (including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts) could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among Finnish residents.

The study included 41,662 Finns aged 25 and over, 22% of whom were women, including male smokers and others. In the dietary transition, 100 grams of red meat and 50 grams of processed meat were replaced each week with an equivalent amount of plant-based diet.

Participants’ health was assessed using serological and self-recorded questionnaires, and the data were linked to Finnish health registry data. Individuals with type 2 diabetes at the start of the study were excluded. These individuals were followed for a median of 11 years, during which time 1,750 new cases of type 2 diabetes were reported.

The study took into account socioeconomic status, age, lifestyle factors, medical history, education, body mass index (BMI), smoking habits, blood pressure, leisure-time physical activity, serum cholesterol levels, alcohol consumption, hormone replacement therapy (in women), sugar Beverages, as well as data on coffee and dairy intake.

Research result

Significant reductions in the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes were observed in men by partially replacing processed meat products such as sausage and red meat including lamb, game, pork and beef with fruit. Replacing meat with wheat, barley, oat and rye grains produced similar results.

In men, doubling the equivalent amount of cereal or fruit replacement to 200g of red meat and 100g of processed meat per week, respectively, was associated with a greater reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

High whole grain intake was associated with lower fasting insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity, which may be mediated by high fiber content and vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in whole grains.

The relationship between plant-based food intake and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes was stronger in men, possibly due to men’s higher meat consumption and lower propensity to consume plant-based foods. In addition, 78% of the study participants were men; therefore, these associations may have higher significance in men.

Overall, the findings suggest that even small, easy-to-implement shifts to a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in men.