The next time you’re trying to decide between a burger and a chicken club, you might want to keep this in mind: Eating too much red meat might boost your risk for type-2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed three studies that included food frequency questionnaires and health data from more than 149,000 men and women in the U.S. Compared with a control group that didn’t change their red meat intake at all, participants who increased their red meat consumption by more than half an additional serving per day had an increased risk of developing Type-2 diabetes by 48 percent over four years. On the other hand, those who cut back on red meat by at least half a serving per day had a decreased risk of 14 percent.
Since this was an observational study, the authors didn’t examine why the link may exist, says William Evans, PhD, head of the Muscle Metabolism Unit at GlaxoSmithKline and author of the commentary that accompanied the study. One possible explanation: Since some cuts of red meat are high in saturated fat—which previous studies have linked to heart disease and increased insulin resistance—eating more of it could be to blame, says Evans.
As a good rule of thumb, less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from saturated fat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other foods that contain the harmful fat include whole milk, high-fat cheeses, and anything loaded with butter, says Evans.
If you’re feeling majorly bummed right about now, there is some good news: You don’t have to give up red meat altogether. Leaner portions of it, like sirloin or round cuts, contain less saturated fat. So when you’re in the mood for something other than chicken and fish, you’re better off sticking with one of those—at least most of the time.