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AMI Foundation Reaffirms Meat's Role in Healthy, Balanced Diet

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Disputes Harvard study implicating meat consumption with increased risk for type 2 diabetes

Washington, D.C, -- The American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation said that red meat, including meat that has been cured or processed, continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and that nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence – not on the latest study that stands in contrast to other research and to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  AMIF issued the statement in response to a study that appeared today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which claims that consumption of both unprocessed and processed red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

“The total body of research reflects the fact that we simply don’t have any metabolic studies implicating meat consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” said AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges. “In fact, other epidemiological studies have found no link between eating fresh red meat and type 2 diabetes.”   

Hodges noted that it is widely understood in the scientific community that type 2 diabetes is a very complex disease with many risk factors, the most prevalent of which is obesity. Singling out individual foods that may be associated with type 2 diabetes ignores the fact that obesity and diabetes have a wide range of genetic, lifestyle, social, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to variations in their prevalence.

“No one food should be singled out as an increased risk factor for diseases like type 2 diabetes,” Hodges continued. “A particular food, for example, may be associated with a lifestyle that can be related to health problems – such as smoking or inactivity.  And it is unfair to paint processed meat products with such a broad brush when it is such a diverse category of products.  They come in many different nutrition formulations, whether it’s low-fat, lean, fat-free or low-sodium, which allow consumers to make the best choice that meets their own dietary needs.” 

Hodges also pointed out that the study shows no increased risk with average meat intake.  The statistical significance is determined by the groups consuming the most and least amount of meat, which is important because on average, Americans are consuming the recommended amount of meat, five to seven ounces per day, according to government data.  In fact, the meat, poultry, bean and fish group is the only category Americans are eating in the proper amount, as vegetables and fruits are under consumed and discretionary fats and sugars are over consumed. 

While obesity is widely considered the prominent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, Hodges pointed to recent studies that show meat satisfies hunger longer, making lean meat and poultry part of a balanced diet that helps metabolize food more efficiently and prevent between-meal snacking that can lead to weight gain. 

More studies have shown that changes in the macronutrient composition of the diet, i.e. decreasing carbohydrate and increasing unsaturated fats and/or protein, play a role that facilitates weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, and improves cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, blood lipid profile and inflammatory markers.

Hodges also cautioned about the limitations of epidemiological studies, such as this one. 

“Too often, epidemiological findings are reported as ‘case closed’ findings, as if a researcher has discovered the definitive cause of a disease or illness.  But epidemiological studies look at a multitude of diet and lifestyle factors in specific volunteer human populations and use sophisticated statistical methods to try and tease out relationships or associations between these factors and certain forms of disease.   This method of comparing relationships has many limitations which are widely recognized by researchers in this field.  More often than not, epidemiological studies, over time, provide more contradictions than conclusions,” Hodges said.

“This study is just the latest example of ‘nutrition whiplash’ for consumers,” Hodges concluded. “The best medical and scientific advice to follow to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, or any chronic disease for that matter, is to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a balanced diet, increase physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight.”


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