Context—Red meat consumption has been consistently associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. However, whether changes in red meat intake are related to subsequent type 2 diabetes risk remains unknown.
Objective—We evaluated the association between changes in red meat consumption during a 4-year period and subsequent 4-year risk of type 2 diabetes in US adults.
Design, setting and participants—We followed 26,357 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS, 1986–2006), 48,709 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS, 1986–2006) and 74,077 women in NHS II (1991–2007). Diet was assessed by validated food frequency questionnaires and updated every 4 years. Time-dependent Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) with adjustment for age, family history, race, marital status, initial red meat consumption, initial and changes in other lifestyle factors (physical activity, smoking status, alcohol intake, energy intake, and dietary quality). Results across cohorts were pooled by inverse-variance-weighted fixed-effect meta-analyses.
Main Outcome Measure—Incident T2D cases validated by supplementary questionnaires.
Results—During 1,965,824 person-years of follow-up, we documented 7,540 incident type 2 diabetes cases. In the multivariate-adjusted models, increasing red meat intake during a 4-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes over the subsequent four years in each cohort (all P-trend <0.001): compared with the reference group of no change in red meat intake, increasing red meat intake of >0.5 serving/d was associated with a 48% (pooled HR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.37–1.59) elevated risk in the subsequent 4-year period, and the association was modestly attenuated after further adjustment for initial body mass index and concurrent weight gain (1.30; 95% CI, 1.21–1.41). A reduction of red meat consumption of >0.5 serving/day from baseline to the first four years of follow-up was associated with a 14% (95% CI, 7%–20%) lower risk during subsequent follow-up through 2006/2007.
Conclusions—Increasing red meat consumption over time is associated with an elevated subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes, and the association is partly mediated by body weight. Our results add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for diabetes prevention.