Diet and diabetes

How going meat-free can help lower your risk

The huge EPIC-Oxford study looked at the links between diet and the risk of hospitalisation or death with diabetes in over 45,000 British adults. They were followed for an average of 17 years during which time over 1,000 developed the disease. Results showed that low and non-meat consumers had a much lower risk of developing diabetes. Results from previous studies have found the risk to be 40-50 per cent lower in those consuming a meat-free diet.

This study shows the double whammy effect of diet, with diabetes risk affected not only by what you do eat, but also by what you don’t eat.

The lower risk among vegans and vegetarians is partly due to the fact that they tend to weigh less but it is also helped by their higher consumption of plant foods, including pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables, with both fibre and plant proteins being linked to lower risk.   

The increased risk among meat-eaters is partly due to their tendency to weigh more but may also be linked to substances in meat. Nitrites in processed meat, for example, can damage insulin-producing cells while high levels of saturated fat and iron are both associated with increased insulin resistance. This study adds to a large body of evidence linking meat to a higher risk of diabetes.

Papier K et al., 2019. Vegetarian diets and risk of hospitalisation or death with diabetes in British adults: results from the EPIC-Oxford study. Nutrition and Diabetes. 9 (1) 7.