OBJECTIVE There is sparse evidence for the association of suitable food substitutions for red and processed meat on the risk of type 2 diabetes. We modeled the association between replacing red and processed meat with other protein sources and the risk of type 2 diabetes and estimated its population impact.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-InterAct case cohort included 11,741 individuals with type 2 diabetes and a subcohort of 15,450 participants in eight countries. We modeled the replacement of self-reported red and processed meat with poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, cheese, cereals, yogurt, milk, and nuts. Country-specific hazard ratios (HRs) for incident type 2 diabetes were estimated by Prentice-weighted Cox regression and pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.
RESULTS There was a lower hazard for type 2 diabetes for the modeled replacement of red and processed meat `(50 g/day) with cheese (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.83–0.97) (30 g/day), yogurt (0.90, 0.86–0.95) (70 g/day), nuts (0.90, 0.84–0.96) (10 g/day), or cereals (0.92, 0.88–0.96) (30 g/day) but not for replacements with poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, or milk. If a causal association is assumed, replacing red and processed meat with cheese, yogurt, or nuts could prevent 8.8%, 8.3%, or 7.5%, respectively, of new cases of type 2 diabetes.
CONCLUSIONS Replacement of red and processed meat with cheese, yogurt, nuts, or cereals was associated with a lower rate of type 2 diabetes. Substituting red and processed meat by other protein sources may contribute to the prevention of incident type 2 diabetes in European populations.