Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: August 8, 2022

As the readers of this blog know, I am a vigorous advocate for the carnivore lifestyle. This way of eating has many benefits, including improved mental clarity and focus, increased energy levels, normalized hunger signals, and much more.

One common question I get from readers who are interested in trying out a carnivore diet is whether or not meat consumption can cause type 2 diabetes.

Since health is vital, I have done hours of research on this topic, and here is what I have found.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Conditions associated with diabetes include obesity, family history, physical inactivity, and certain medications and diseases.
  • Although there is no proof that meat causes diabetes, there is evidence that increased red meat consumption is correlated with higher diabetes risk.
  • Consumption of processed meat and meat that is prepared via open flame and high heat also is associated with more diabetes.

The Connection between Meat and Diabetes

Although there is no evidence that red meat intake causes diabetes, a systematic review of the medical literature shows there is definitely an association between the two.

Studies reveal that people who eat a lot of red meat, processed meat, or meat cooked at higher temperatures are more likely to develop diabetes than those who do not consume as much meat [1].

Close up shot of raw meat

Let’s look at the principal factors that may contribute to this connection.

1. Type of Meat

There are all sorts of meats out there, from chicken to beef to fish. And while they may all taste deliciously different, they may also have distinct effects on your diabetes risk factors.

Red Meat

For example, studies have shown that eating red meat can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes [2].

Scientists think this is because of the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in red meat, which can increase weight and promote insulin resistance.

Red meat consumption is also associated with increased visceral fat, which decreases the body’s ability to use insulin properly and can lead to diabetes.

"Proteins foods (especially those from animal sources) usually contain saturated fat, which may increase your risk of heart disease. Lean proteins are lower in fat and saturated fat, making them a healthier choice."
- American Diabetes Association

Finally, a diet high in red meat is a significant source of iron. While an essential nutrient, too much dietary heme iron can promote oxidants, which may damage pancreatic cells and cause diabetes [3].

Poultry

Raw chicken in a bowl

Other meats do not have the same type 2 diabetes risk as beef. This may be because they contain less cholesterol or saturated fat.

For example, the Singapore Chinese Health Study discovered that people who only ate poultry had a 15% increased risk of type 2 developing diabetes.

In comparison, those who ate red meat had a 23% increased diabetes risk [4].

Poultry has less iron and fat than red meat and is an excellent source of protein. It also contains niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium, which are all nutrients that help keep blood glucose levels in check.

Chicken breast meat is exceptionally low in saturated fats, and health professionals think that chicken cooked over moderate heat can be part of a balanced diet. That includes meat alternatives like whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and other plant-based products.

Fish

Undoubtedly, the meat with the lowest risk of diabetes is fish. In fact, one study shows that people who had a high fish intake had no increase in their type 2 diabetes risk [5].

This protection may be because fish is lean meat and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lessen inflammation in the body and improve insulin sensitivity [6].

Further, fish is also a lean protein, so fish consumption is less likely to cause weight gain, a factor that is highly correlated with diabetes.

2. Preparation of Meat

A man preparing raw meat in a kitchen

Diabetes risk might also be affected by how the meat is prepared. High-temperature meat cooking methods can increase the disease risk.

Studies have discovered that people who eat a lot of grilled or barbecued meats have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes [7].

High temperatures create chemicals like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (HCAs and PAHs). Scientists think these compounds may damage cells and lead to insulin resistance.

Additionally, cooking food so that it is charred or well-done can also place you at risk of contracting diabetes.

In one study, those people who ate the most grilled, barbecued, or smoked meats had a 1.5 times higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least amount of these meats [8].

So if you eat meat, it’s best not to always go for the grilled option. Instead, try other methods of cooking that use lower temperatures like baking, boiling, stewing in slow-cookers, steaming, or stir-frying.

Furthermore, aim for lightly browned meat rather than meat that is cooked until it is blackened.

3. Processing of Meat

Meat being processed in a factory

Another factor to consider is how processed the meat is. Meat with added processing may be more likely to cause diabetes than clean, natural meat.

Processed meats are ones that have been treated to improve their flavor or to preserve them.

Smoking, curing, or adding salt or other chemicals can do this. These meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, corned beef, and some deli meats.

Studies have established that people who eat a lot of processed red meat have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

In one study, those who frequently ate this type of meat were 43% more likely to get diabetes than those who rarely ate them. This was particularly true for those who regularly ate bacon or hot dogs [9].

Processed meat is thought to increase diabetes risk because this food is high in calories, and frequent consumption often leads people to put on weight.

Additionally, food processing increases nitrates that reduce glucose tolerance, and may lead to diabetes [10].

Eating Meat and Avoiding Diabetes

A man eating steak in a restaurant

The available evidence seems to point to the fact that eating meat can increase insulin resistance and your risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, some options will help you control your diabetes risk factors while still allowing you to eat meat as part of a well-rounded and healthy diet.

For example, if you are going to eat red meat, aim for leaner cuts like loin or round steak.

You can also trim the fat off before cooking. Additionally, don’t cook it until it is well-done—shoot for rare to medium instead.

Be aware of the quantity of your consumption and be mindful of the type of meat you are eating. Choose leaner meats like fish and poultry, and avoid processed red meats as much as possible.

Moderation is essential, as is preparation. You can help manage your diabetes risk by making minor changes to how you consume meat.

Should People with Diabetes Stop Eating Meat?

Close up shot of a hand holding raw meat

No, people with diabetes should not stop eating meat. Although red meat may increase the risk of diabetes, once you have the disease, you need to maintain a diet that does not cause spikes in your blood glucose.

Carbohydrates are the primary culprit in blood sugar spikes, so you’ll want to be sure to limit those. But meat is fat and protein-based food that will not have the same effect.

Meat is a superb source of protein, which helps maintain muscle mass. It also contains B vitamins, iron, and other minerals that are important for disease control in people with diabetes.

You should, however, be aware of the types of meat you eat and how often you consume them. Choose lean meats like poultry and fish, and avoid processed meats as much as possible.

FAQs

What Meats Should People With Diabetes Avoid?

People with diabetes should avoid meats high in trans and saturated fats. This is because people with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk of heart disease, and these fats can also contribute to that risk.

People with diabetes should also avoid processed meats like bacon, ham, and sausage.

What Kind of Meat Is Best for People With Diabetes?

Lean meat is the best kind of meat for people with diabetes [11]. This grouping includes poultry, fish, and lean cuts of red meat that are low fat, including beef (tenderloin, flank steak, sirloin), pork (ham, Canadian bacon), veal, skinless chicken, turkey, goose, duck, pheasant, or Cornish game hen, wild game (rabbit, venison), and fish (Albacore tuna, halibut).

Does Meat Worsen Diabetes?

No, there is no evidence that meat worsens the blood sugar control of diabetes. However, there is evidence that increased meat consumption can place people with diabetes at greater risk for developing a cardiac disease.

Meat and Diabetes

As you can see, there is evidence that meat consumption can contribute to an increased risk of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate meat from your diet altogether.

When you do choose to eat meat, you want to get the healthiest meat on the market.

This means hormone and antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, and grass-fed meat from a highly respected meat delivery service. Click here to read about our picks for the healthiest and best meat delivery services on the market.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2885952/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942738/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8616520/
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170905134506.htm
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170905134506.htm
  6. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep06697
  7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2018/03/23/how-meat-is-cooked-may-affect-risk-of-type-2-diabetes/
  8. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/41/5/1049/36533/Meat-Cooking-Methods-and-Risk-of-Type-2-Diabetes
  9. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/27/9/2108/22629/A-Prospective-Study-of-Red-Meat-Consumption-and
  10. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/processed-meats-unprocessed-heart-disease-diabetes
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/meats-for-diabetes

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