Research claims link between meat and type 2 diabetes

Meat-eaters are being subjected to another bout of health-related propaganda, following claims made in a study published in a diabetes medical journal.

The claims, printed in the European Association for the Study of Diabetes’ (EASD) journal, Diabetologia, said a Western diet rich in animal products and other acidic foods could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

National press reports following the release of the report, however, played heavily on a link between eating meat and contracting type 2 diabetes. But Dr Richard Elliott, research communications officer at Diabetes UK said: “This is a complex area of research, and further studies will be needed before we can be confident that there really is a link between diets high in foods that increase acids in the body and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

“We would then need to look at whether increased acids in the body, due to diet, are actually what cause the increased risk of type 2 diabetes, part of which would involve getting a better understanding of how this might work. What we currently know for sure is that the best way to avoid type 2 diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight by getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, salt and sugar.”

Acidogenic foods on health

Researchers on the study, meanwhile, followed more than 66,000 women for over 14 years to examine the effects of acidogenic (acid-forming) foods on health. It was claimed that such foods could increase the amount of acid in the gut and would not be compensated for by fruits and vegetables. The long-term study deemed meat, cheese, fish, bread and soft drinks to be among the main contributing food types.

“It has recently been suggested that acid/base imbalance may play an important role in some cardiometabolic (risk of having diabetes) abnormalities,” the study said, adding that such imbalances caused by the types of food eaten have been associated with insulin resistance in previous studies.

However, researchers admitted the study had some limitations, saying: “Information on diet was not updated during follow-up, while dietary habits may have changed over time. Although we adjusted for most of the known and potential type 2 diabetes risk factors, residual confounding cannot be ruled out.”

It was also noted that the study was of women only, but researchers said this was a minor limitation, since there were few studies suggesting differences in risk factors between men and women.

Finally, the report said: “This is the first prospective cohort study to show that a dietary acid load is directly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. From a public health perspective, dietary recommendations should not only incriminate specific food groups, but also include recommendations on the overall quality of the diet, notably the need to maintain an adequate acid/base balance.”

No proven causation

Yet nutrition manager at Eblex Maureen Strong said: “The study used statistical analysis to identify a prospective relationship between dietary acid load and type 2 diabetes in women. It does not propose any underlying mechanism for this hypothetical relationship and indeed suggests further research would be required to do this. The association identified by this study do not prove causation.

"To suggest that public health dietary recommendations should not only incriminate specific food groups but also include recommendations on the overall quality of the diet to maintain an adequate acid/base balance is misleading. The relationship between diet and diabetes is being studied in detail. If there is a relationship it may be related to overall dietary pattern, health and lifestyle. To further complicate messages with modifying the acid/base balance of the diet is only likely to cause further confusion and dis-engagement of those most at need of making healthier changes to their diet and lifestyle.”


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