NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In a new study, American Indians who ate canned processed meat often called “spam”, a common product in reserves subsidized by the Government of the United States had twice the risk of developing diabetes than those who ate the least amount.
“This suggests that the reduction in processed meats should be a priority for food assistance programs that use mostly Native Americans to obtain these products at a discount,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor at the School of Public Health at Harvard and did not participate in the study.
The authors interviewed 2,000 indigenous people of Arizona, Oklahoma and North Dakota and South. No participant (35 years was the average age) had diabetes at baseline. At five years, 243 had developed the disease.
85 percent of the 500 participants who consumed more canned processed meat developed diabetes, compared with just 44 of the 500 participants, less “spam” ate.
Although Spam is the brand of a product with pork, when written in lower case describes all kinds of canned processed meat, explained the study’s lead author, Amanda Fretts, Faculty of Medicine, University of Washington.
The canned meat is preserved in the Indian reservations, Fretts team writes in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Many of the studied communities living in rural areas with little access to food retail locations and want to consume products that can last on the shelves,” Fretts said told Reuters Health.
In addition, the food assistance program of the Department of Agriculture United States gives them free canned meat.
The team also noted that raw meat was not as related to diabetes. Participants were equally likely to develop the disease no matter how many burgers or cuts of pork or beef they consumed.
This supports previous results Mozaffarian team, which had found that eating processed meat was associated with a 19 percent increased risk of developing diabetes, while the raw meat had no effect.
“The biggest difference between processed meats and unprocessed is the sodium content,” which is higher in processed meats. “We know that sodium alters the pressure and, perhaps, have other effects that we should study better,” said Mozaffarian.
Fretts team observed that participants who consumed more processed meat used to be overweight and a larger waist circumference, which increases the possibility that processed meats promote obesity, a factor that increases the risk of diabetes.
Through an emailed statement to Reuters Health, AMI, which represents the industry, said that “processed meats are safe and nutritious part of a balanced diet.”