It remains unclear whether the association of red meat consumption with increased risk of type 2 diabetes is due to adverse physiologic effects of red meat consumption per se, or due to the correlation of red meat intake with other dietary and lifestyle factors. A new study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that partial replacement of dietary starches with lean unprocessed beef does not significantly impact insulin sensitivity, other indices of carbohydrate metabolism, or markers of cardiometabolic health in men and women at risk for type 2 diabetes.

In a randomized, controlled-feeding trial consisting of two 28-d treatments, Kevin Maki (Midwest Biomedical Research and Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington) and colleagues compared the USDA Healthy US-Style Eating Patterns as outlined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is low in saturated fat and red meat (< 40 g/d of red meat), with a modified version that included an additional 150 g/d of lean beef, as a replacement for carbohydrate, primarily refined starches. Diets provided the appropriate calorie level based on each subject’s calculated energy needs for weight maintenance. A total of 33 overweight/obese adults that met the criteria for having metabolic syndrome and/or prediabetes participated in the study. Insulin sensitivity and other biomarkers associated with cardiometabolic health such as blood pressure, inflammation, and lipoproteins were assessed at baseline and the end of each diet period.

The results of the study indicate the diets did not differ significantly on insulin sensitivity and most other indicators of cardiometabolic health. However, the modified diet produced a shift toward a greater proportion of LDL cholesterol carried by larger, more buoyant particles. This shift is potentially favorable since smaller, less buoyant LDL particles tend to be more atherogenic. The research team concluded that substituting a portion of carbohydrate, primarily refined starches, with lean unprocessed beef in a USDA Healthy US-Style Eating Pattern did not adversely affect insulin sensitivity, other measures of carbohydrate metabolism, or markers of cardiometabolic health in adults at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Reference Maki KC, Wilcox ML, Dicklin MR, Buggia M, Palacios OM, Maki CE, Kramer M. Substituting Lean Beef for Carbohydrate in a Healthy Dietary Patterns Does Not Adversely Affect the Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Profile in Men and Women at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 7, July 2020, Pages 1824–1833,

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