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Processed Meats Increase Diabetes Risk

Red meats and processed meats such as hot dogs appear to increase the risk of diabetes, as does the typical "Western" diet, according to the latest research.

U.S. investigators found that people that ate mostly Western foods - including sweets, French fries, refined grains such as white bread, and red and processed meats - were nearly 50% more likely to develop diabetes over a 14-year period than people who ate minimal amounts of Western-type foods.

Breaking down the diet into its parts, the researchers found that the more red and processed meats people ate, the more their risk of diabetes increased. For example, each additional daily serving of red meat increased a person's risk of diabetes by 26%, and adding another serving of processed meat increased their risk by nearly 40%.

The researchers suggest that people should eat processed meats "as little as possible," and "very little" red meat. When many processed and red meats and other high fat foods are cooked at high temperatures, they form substances that appear to help trigger the development of diabetes.

The study focused on type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity. The researchers analyzed data on almost 70,000 women who were followed for 14 years. All of the women were diabetes-free at the beginning of the study. Nearly 2,700 women developed type 2 diabetes. Both a Western diet and eating large amounts of red or processed meats increased their risk.

The researchers also found that women who followed a largely "prudent" diet -- consisting of high amounts of fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains -- the risk of diabetes appeared to decrease.

For more information, see our diabetes page.

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, November 8, 2004