Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bacon, Baloney, and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Bacon is one of the pork-eating world's favorite foods. It's fatty. It's salty. It's colorful. It has a tantalizing aroma. Some people joke that it's one of their basic food groups. But it turns out that, along with processed meats such as balogna, bacon is indeed a basic food group related to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Nurses Health Study followed the health and habits of 69,554 women aged 38 to 63 for 11 years. When the data were last collected in 1994, a relatively small number, just 2,699 of the women, had developed type 2 diabetes. Certain foods, however were associated with a much greater risk of the disease. On average,
  • Every serving of red meat per day increased the risk of developing diabetes by 38%.
  • Every serving of bacon per day increased the risk of developing diabetes by 43%.
  • Every serving of balogna per day increased the risk of developing diabetes by 48%
  • Every serving of any other kind of processed meat, such hot dogs, increased the risk of developing diabetes by 73%.
There seemed to be something about hot dogs or hot dog eaters that has close connection to developing type 2. The medical scientists believe that the problem is in the food itself. The more a meat has to be ground up to disguise its origins to make processed meat, the more nitrite preservatives get mixed into it. Nitrites are known to interfere with the secretion of insulin so the pancreas can't release it when it is needed, and "bad timing," as Bev discusses in her book Eat to Beat the Belly Fat Blues, sets up the series of events that leads to insulin resistance, weight gain, and, eventually, full-blown type 2 diabetes.

What about men?

Well, the epidemiological data for men aren't so precise when it comes to eating processed meat, although it's well known that increased fat mass is associated with increased risk of diabetes. Men and women alike might benefit from eating nitrite-free and low-fat versions of these foods, if that doesn't sustain a habit of unhealthy choices.

Selected Reference:

Fung TT, Schulze M, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Dietary patterns, meat intake, and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Nov 8;164(20):2235-40.

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