The number of people affected by diabetes globally is rapidly increasing. Some small, previous studies have found that low meat and non-meat eaters might have a lower risk of diabetes compared with high meat eaters. To explore this further, we investigated the association between low meat and non-meat diets and diabetes in a large, prospective cohort study of British adults.
Data were from 45,314 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Oxford study. Participants were categorized into four diet groups [regular meat eaters (>50 grams per day); low meat eaters (<50 grams of meat per day); fish eaters (ate no meat but consumed fish); and vegetarians (ate no meat or fish, including vegans)] and we used multivariable Cox proportional hazards models to assess associations between diet group and risk of diabetes over 18 years.
We found that compared with regular meat eaters, the low meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians were 37%, 53%, and 37% less likely to develop diabetes, respectively. These associations were attenuated after adjusting for body mass index (low meat eaters: 22%; fish eaters: 36%; and vegetarians: 11% and no longer statistically significant). In conclusion, this study find that low meat and non-meat eaters had a lower risk of diabetes compared with regular meat eaters, in part because of a lower BMI.