Eating just two slices of bacon a day for breakfast can increase the risk of developing diabetes by more than 50 per cent, according to new research.
A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating red meat was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but eating processed meat increased the risk further.
The researchers looked at data from a range of large studies carried out in the US which followed the health and diets of 442,101 participants for a period of 14 to 28 years. Of these, 28,228 developed type 2 diabetes.
The study found that eating 100g a day of red meat increased the likeliehood of developing type 2 diabetes by 19 per cent.
But eating 50g of processed meat every day – the equivalent of a hot dog, sausage or two slices of bacon – increased the risk by 51 per cent.
However, it also found that people who ate a portion of red meat a day could lower their risk by substituting the red meat with another type of protein.
Replacing red meat with a serving of nuts was associated with a 21 per cent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, while substituting with low-fat dairy lowered the risk by 17 per cent. Replacing red meat with single whole grains resulted in a 23 per cent lower risk.
Study co-author Frank Wu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, said: “Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide.
“The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein.”
Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: “Based on analysis of previous studies, this research simply suggests eating a daily portion of red meat may increase someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
“The suggested increased risk is small so people should not be afraid of eating red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet. The paper does not support some of the more fanciful claims about eating specific types of meat such as sausages and bacon.”
In the UK, more than 2.5 million people have type 2 diabetes, but it’s estimated that this figure could rise to four million by 2025, because of increasing numbers of people who are overweight or obese.