Even occasional meat and fish cuts protect against diabetes

Even occasional meat and fish cuts protect against diabetes

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Reducing meat consumption lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes

According to a recently published US study, the frequent consumption of red meat significantly reduces life expectancy. Among other things, because this consumption is associated with a higher risk of diabetes. German researchers are now reporting that even occasional meat cuts could protect against type 2 diabetes.

Protect against diabetes

Diabetes is one of the major widespread diseases in this country. Health experts say around 7.6 million Germans are currently diabetic. In many cases, the metabolic disease can be controlled well with the right diet. But nutrition can also make an important contribution to protecting yourself from the disease. For example, the risk of type 2 diabetes could be reduced by occasionally avoiding meat.

Diet affects the risk of diabetes

Previous scientific studies have shown how much diet affects the risk of developing diabetes.

For example, US researchers found that walnuts can reduce this risk.

And just recently, a study was published that found that low-carbohydrate foods lower the risk of diabetes.

On the other hand, there are also foods that increase the risk of becoming diabetic. Scientists reported years ago that the frequent consumption of red meat increases the risk of diabetes.

Occasionally avoiding meat could reduce this risk.

Eat less and live longer

Numerous studies on the positive effects of (interval) fasting point out that people who eat less live longer and healthier.

But in addition to the reduced calorie intake, the ratio of the individual food components also plays an important role, explains the German Institute for Nutritional Research Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) in a message.

Researchers from DIfE, partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research, have now been able to show in animal models that the reduction of the amino acid methionine prevents type 2 diabetes alone.

The study results were published in the journal "FASEB Journal".

Positive impact on health

In previous investigations, the research team from the Experimental Diabetology Department at DIfE found that mice that received low-protein food had, among other things, improved blood sugar levels and consumed more energy than animals that received standard food.

The current results now show that the reduction of a single amino acid in the feed has a positive effect on health.

For example, a diet low in methionine improved the mice's sugar metabolism and their sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

"Interestingly, we observed the positive effects of the low methionine diet without reducing the protein content and regardless of food intake and body fat," explains Dr. Thomas Laeger, head of the project.

As the experts explain, methionine is a sulfur-containing, vital amino acid that the body cannot produce itself and which must therefore be ingested with food.

Like all amino acids, it serves as a building block for proteins. Among other things, methionine contributes to the formation of neurotransmitters and hormones and is therefore involved in many important bodily functions.

Although certain nuts, oilseeds and vegetables also contain significant amounts of the essential amino acid, a plant-based diet is usually low in methionine compared to a meat and fish diet.

Possible benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet

The data from the study indicate that fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) conveys the protective effect of a low-methionine diet: if less of the amino acid is absorbed, the liver releases more FGF21.

Vegetarian or vegan food usually contains small amounts of methionine compared to meat and fish-based dishes.

"Together with colleagues from the Molecular Toxicology Department and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, we were able to show that people who eat vegetarian or vegan foods have higher FGF21 levels in their blood compared to foodies," says lead author Teresa Castaño-Martinez.

After only four days of a vegetarian diet, the FGF21 levels also increased in the blood of the foodies.

"If the findings from the animal model can be transferred to humans, this would be an important step for the treatment of diabetes," said Laeger.

“Instead of counting calories and generally avoiding tasty protein-rich foods, only the methionine content in the food would have to be reduced. It may already be enough for those affected to take a vegetarian week every now and then, causing their FGF21 levels to rise. That could make accepting a change in diet considerably easier. ”

However, it must be taken into account that certain groups, including children, pregnant and lactating women, have an increased need for methionine.

Deepen new knowledge about the mechanisms of origin of type 2 diabetes
The scientists agree that the trail should be followed up.

It would now be important to find out to what extent the reduced methionine intake actually contributes to the increase in FGF21 levels.

In the future, the research team would like to carry out further studies with vegans in order to reveal additional evidence for the possible involvement of the amino acid methionine in the development of type 2 diabetes. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Institute for Nutritional Research (DIfE): Occasional meat avoidance could protect against type 2 diabetes, (accessed: June 25, 2019), German Institute for Nutritional Research (DIfE)
  • FASEB Journal: Methionine restriction prevents onset of type 2 diabetes in NZO mice, (accessed: June 25, 2019), FASEB Journal

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