The Singapore Chinese Health Study reveals increased risk of diabetes with higher intake of red meat and poultry, partially attributed to the dietary iron content in these meats.
While a plant-based diet is generally considered healthier than a meat-based diet in preventing the risk of diabetes, not all meats affect the risk equally. As Professor Koh Woon Puay of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), and her team found out, higher intakes of red meat and poultry are associated with a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, which is partially attributed to their higher content of heme iron in these meats. This study provides the foundation for evidence-based dietary recommendations to the Singapore population in mitigating diabetes risk and reducing the healthcare burden of this chronic condition.
These findings come from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which recruited 63,257 adults aged 45–74 years between 1993 and 1998, and then followed them up for an average of about 11 years. The study found a positive association between intakes of red meat and poultry, and the risk of developing diabetes. Specifically, compared to those in the lowest quartile intake, those in the highest quartile intake of red meat and poultry had a 23 per cent and 15 per cent increase in risk of diabetes, respectively, while the intake of fish/shellfish was not associated with risk of diabetes. The increased risk associated with red meat/poultry was reduced by substituting them with fish/shellfish.
In trying to understand the underlying mechanism for the role of red meat and poultry in the development of diabetes, the study also investigated the association between dietary heme-iron content from all meats and the risk of diabetes, and found a dose-dependent positive association. After adjusting for heme-iron content in the diet, the red-meat and diabetes association was still present, suggesting that other chemicals present in red meat could be accountable for the increase in risk of diabetes. Conversely, the association between poultry intake and diabetes risk became null, suggesting that this risk was attributable to the heme-iron content in poultry.
This is one of the largest Asian studies looking at meat consumption and diabetes risk.
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