The American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) says that red meat, cured or processed, continues to be part of a healthy diet, and that consumers should base nutrition choices on the total body of evidence, not on the latest study by Harvard University.

That study, which appeared this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, claims that consumption of both unprocessed and processed red meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

“The total body of research reflects the fact that we simply don’t have any metabolic studies implicating meat consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” says AMIF President James H. Hodges. “In fact, other epidemiological studies have found no link between eating fresh red meat and type 2 diabetes.”

Type 2 diabetes is a very complex disease with many risk factors, most commonly obesity. Singling out individual foods that may be associated with type 2 diabetes ignores the fact that obesity and diabetes have a wide range of genetic, lifestyle, social, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to variations in prevalence.

“No one food should be singled out as an increased risk factor for diseases like type 2 diabetes,” Hodges adds. “A particular food, for example, may be associated with a lifestyle that can be related to health problems – such as smoking or inactivity. And it is unfair to paint processed meat products with such a broad brush when it is such a diverse category of products. They come in many different nutrition formulations, whether it’s low-fat, lean, fat-free or low-sodium, which allows consumers to make the best choice that meets their own dietary needs.”

Hodges says epidemiological studies such as this one provide more contradictions than conclusions.

“This study is just the latest example of ‘nutrition whiplash’ for consumers,’ Hodges concludes. “The best medical and scientific advice to follow to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, or any chronic disease for that matter, is to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a balanced diet, increase physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight.”