Hans Diehl, DrHSc, MPH
In a large new study, scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more red meat a person eats, particularly processed red meat like hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts, the greater the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The research, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked the dietary habits of 200,000+ men and women for a decade or more, and found:
- A mere 2-ounce serving a day of processed red meat increased the risk of diabetes by 50%.
- A 4-ounce serving a day of unprocessed red meat (such as steak, hamburger, and pork) was linked with a 20% increased risk of diabetes.
- Eliminating just one serving of red meat a day and eating instead a healthful protein-rich substitute like beans lowered the risk of diabetes by up to 35%.
The scientists, led by Harvard research fellow Dr. An Pan, stressed the need for Americans to fight the relentless upward trajectory of diabetes by adopting a healthier lifestyle. That would include eating more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and lentils), daily physical activity, and loss of excess weight.
There was never a more important time to get our commitment for healthier living into high gear than today. In the U.S. alone, over 100 million--or every third man, woman and child--are at risk for diabetes. 26 million people already have diabetes. And more than 79 million have pre-diabetes with elevated blood sugar levels.
Diabetes has been inexorably advancing, doubling every 15 years. And if current trends continue, one in three new-born Caucasian babies will develop diabetes in a lifetime. And for a Hispanic baby born in America, the chances are one in two.
Our economy suffers mightily, too. The American Diabetes Association calculates that the health costs associated with diabetes are $174 billion annually. The price tag explodes to $214 billion annually when the costs of pre-diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome (another precursor to diabetes), and undiagnosed diabetes are taken into account. When diabetes is added to the mix of diseases, the usual medical costs increase by two to three times.
And yet the research is very clear: diabetes can be controlled and reversed by making some simple lifestyle changes. Some 70% of type 2 diabetics were able to leave the Pritikin Longevity Center with normal blood sugar levels within less than 4 weeks no longer in need of oral medication. And of those taking insulin injection, 44% left insulin free.
Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, had a similar success rate following an outpatient cohort: A plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times more effectively than a conventional diabetes diet.
His work has been carefully documented not only in several articles published in peer-reviewed diabetes journals but also in his outstanding book Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs, published by Rodale, January 2007.
And CHIP has similar results. Of 59 insulin-using type 2 diabetics, 42% had their insulin significantly reduced, and of 114 diabetics on oral drugs, their drugs were significantly reduced in 44% of them.
And all in response to a four-week intervention program that helped the participants to adapt a healthier diet centered on less fat, sugar and cholesterol and foods high in fiber and nutritional density as found in unrefined grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes and to build two miles of walking into their daily routine.
The diagnosis of diabetes is serious. But it no longer needs to feel like a death sentence. If diabetics are willing to make some simple lifestyle changes, diabetes can be turned around. Diabetes can be disarmed!
Could the remedies be too simple to be taken seriously?