Eating more red meat over time is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in a follow-up of three studies of about 149,000 U.S. men and women, according to a report published online first by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Red meat consumption has been consistently related to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but previous studies measured red meat consumption at a baseline with limited follow-up information. However, a person`s eating behavior changes over time and measurement of consumption at a single point in time does not capture the variability of intake during follow-up, the authors note in the study background.

An Pan, PhD, of the National University of Singapore, and colleagues analyzed data from three Harvard group studies and followed up 26,357 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study; 48,709 women in the Nurses` Health Study; and 74,077 women in the Nurses` Health Study II. Diets were assessed using food frequency questionnaires.

During more than 1.9 million person-years of follow-up, researchers documented 7,540 incident cases of type 2 diabetes.

"Increasing red meat intake during a four-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes during the subsequent four years in each cohort," according to the study.

The results indicate that compared with a group with no change in red meat intake, increasing red meat intake of more than 0.50 servings per day was associated with a 48 percent elevated risk in the subsequent four-year period. Reducing red meat consumption by more than 0.50 servings per day from baseline to the first four years of follow-up was associated with a 14 percent lower risk during the subsequent entire follow-up.

The authors note the study is observational so causality cannot be inferred.

"Our results confirm the robustness of the association between red meat and type 2 diabetes and add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for type 2 diabetes prevention," concludes the authors.

Source: The JAMA Network Journals