TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, which is partially attributed to higher content of heme-iron in these meats, new research shows.

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, Professor of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), and her team found out, higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with significantly increased risk of developing diabetes.

The study found a positive association between intakes of red meat and poultry, and 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 increase in 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.

“The findings affirm HPB's recommendation to consume red meat in moderation, and that a healthy and balanced diet should contain sufficient and varied protein sources, including healthier alternatives to red meat such as fish, tofu and legumes," said Dr Annie Ling, Director, Policy, Research and Surveillance Division, Health Promotion Board.

Materials of the study were provided by Duke-NUS Medical School.