It was all over the internet and news this week so you probably heard about a new study, published on June 17 in JAMA Internal Medicine, that claimed there is a link between red meat consumption and Type 2 diabetes. It indicated that increased consumption of red meat over time was linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, although the authors had said that increased red meat consumption was also associated with weight gain (another factor known to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes). But when adjusted for weight gain, the risk of Type 2 diabetes was still slightly heightened.
Before you cut all red meat out of your diet, keep in mind that this was an association in an epidemiology study which does not necessarily imply causation or mean that red meat is causing Type 2 diabetes. If you asked me, I would say the real villain in the Diabetes epidemic is added sugar, not red meat. (see highlighted recent review of scientific literature below).
However there have been slight trends in risk for consumption of cured and blackened meat, as well as processed meats. So you may want to consider limiting exposure to processed meats when possible. The study subjects who cut back on red meat (and therefore were perceived to lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes) could have also lost weight in the process simply be eliminating or cutting back on cured, blackened and processed meats. Maybe they increased their exercise level as part of this lifestyle change? Or maybe they decreased their intake of processed and packaged foods (consuming fewer processed foods could lead to weight loss and a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes).
Another recent review of scientific literature (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, July 2013) highlights that sugar and obesity are the true villains in heightening your risk factors for diabetes (as well as increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia). Fortunately, many of the basic tenets of Atkins and a generally healthy lifestyle may help prevent the onslaught of these diseases. This is includes eating less, exercising more, restricting fried food and eating more fruits and vegetables.
If you are following Atkins, as it is laid out in The New Atkins for a New You, you are consuming plenty of fresh vegetables (and eventually low-glycemic fruits), with equal opportunity given to poultry, fish, meat and various other protein sources. This emphasis on whole foods (vs. packaged or overly processed foods) is a solid prescription for good health. When you eat meat, try the following tips to ensure you are making the healthiest choices:
Cold cuts and hot dogs: Less expensive brands may be full of added sugars and other hidden carbohydrates. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, salami, olive loaf and the like usually contain nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives are major sources of nitrosamines, which may contribute to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. They have also been linked to stomach and colon cancer. Whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free deli meats or plain sliced roast beef, turkey and the like.
Bacon and such: Most sausages, bacon and aged hams also contain nitrates and nitrites. It is a common misconception that doing Atkins means eating large amounts of bacon and sausage. Both should be eaten occasionally and in moderation. Seek out preservative-free brands sold primarily in natural foods stores.
How you cook your meat also makes a difference. High-temperature frying, broiling, charring and grilling can create substances that may increase your risk of cancer. In general, the more well-done or charred your meat is, the more of these substances it will contain. To minimize your exposure when cooking at home, we offer the following tips for grilling:
–Lightly grill meats and fish; do not let them get black.
–Parboil or bake chicken before grilling so that you minimize time on the grill.
–Bake spareribs or pork before finishing off on the grill
–Brush barbecue sauce on meal after you remove from the grill, instead of before.
–Use marinades with little or no oil. Oil can drip into the fire, causing flare-ups that burn food.
–For the same reason, remove excess fat from meat before grilling.