Meat linked to diabetes and CVD risk

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Metabolic syndrome, Nutrition

Eating just two servings of meat a day can increase the risk of
developing metabolic syndrome by 25 percent compared to consuming
meat twice a week, according to new research.

Fried foods and soda were also found to present the same dangers, while a diet based on vegetables, fruit, and fish did not show advantageous effects on such a condition. However, dairy products proved to have some benefits. The study, conducted by researcher from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Minneapolis, and the University of North Carolina, was published this month Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. ​Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It includes symptoms such as elevated waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high fasting glucose levels. The presence of three or more of the factors increases a person's susceptibility to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. The study ​The scientists, led by Dr Lyn Steffen, analyzed the dietary intake of 9,514 participants aged between 45 and 64, in a collaborative study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute called the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities. "We specifically studied food intake,"​ explained Steffen, comparing this study to previous ones where the relationship between nutrients and CVD risk has been investigated. "When making recommendations about dietary intake it is easier to do so using the framework of real foods eaten by real people." ​Researchers assessed food intake using a 66-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). From the responses, they categorized people by their dietary preferences into a Western-pattern diet or a prudent diet. In general, the Western diet was heavy on refined grains, processed meat, fried foods, red meat, eggs, soda, and was light on fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grain products. Prudent diet eating patterns favored cruciferous vegetables, carotenoid vegetables, fruit, fish and seafood, poultry and whole grains, along with low fat dairy. Researchers also assessed associations with individual food items: fried foods, sweetened beverages, diet soda, nuts and coffee. Results ​After nine years of follow-up, 3,782 participants, equal to 40 percent, had three or more risk factors for metabolic syndrome. "After adjusting for demographic factors, smoking, physical activity and energy intake, consumption of a Western dietary pattern was adversely associated with metabolic syndrome,"​ said Steffen. "One surprising finding was while it didn't increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, there was no evidence of consuming a prudent diet either,"​ she added. When Steffen and colleagues analyzed the results by specific foods, they found that meat, fried foods and diet soda were all significantly associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome, but consumption of dairy products was beneficial. The study did not address the mechanisms involved in the increased risk of metabolic syndrome seen with certain foods, but Steffen speculated that: "It may be a fatty acid mechanism since saturated fats are a common link and certainly overweight and obesity are contributing to the development of metabolic syndrome." ​She said more research is needed on the relationship between diet soda and metabolic syndrome, but the study results show a strong indication that too much meat, fried foods and diet soda do not add up to a healthy life. Previous research ​This study is the third in three months to flag up potential risks with high meat consumption. Last December, a study by the USA's National Cancer Institute found that a high intake of red and processed meats may raise the risk of lung and colorectal cancer by up to 20 per cent. In November, the World Cancer Research Fund published a study which directly linked diet to cancer, with alcohol and red and processed meats posing particular risks. Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ​Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.716159 "Dietary Intake and the Development of the Metabolic Syndrome. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study" ​Authors. Pamela L. Lutsey, Lyn M. Steffen, June Stevens

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