Eating lots of processed meat can increase the risk of type II diabetes by around 50 per cent in men, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care.
The study by a group of Harvard School of Public Health researchers analysed the dietary habits of thousands of men and found that those who frequently ate processed meats had a 46 per cent greater chance of developing type II diabetes than men who ate less of the food.
"We are not proposing to ban hot dogs. It is just a matter of moderation," said Dr Frank Hu, the study's senior author. "People should reduce the frequency of eating processed meats." The biggest risk of type II diabetes is among people who eat processed meat five times or more per week, Dr Hu said.
The data in the research came from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, a project which began in 1986 by collecting dietary information from 42,504 men, aged 40 to 75, who were healthy, free of diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
The men in the study were followed for 12 years, and the researchers compared the dietary patterns of those who developed type 2 diabetes with eating habits of those who did not. Dr Hu said the results were adjusted for known effects of activities such as smoking, obesity, fat intake and physical activity. After these adjustments, he said, it was clear that eating abundant hot dogs and other processed meats was an independent risk factor for diabetes.
In contrast, participants who followed a diet rich in linoleic acid - a polyunsaturated fat found in sunflower, corn and soybean oil, among others - were 26 per cent less likely than men with the lowest linolenic acid intakes to be diagnosed with the disease, the study said.
"Eating processed meats five times or more per week is where we saw the major difference," said Dr Hu. "The effect is dose-related: the more you eat of these foods, the higher the risk."
Hu said the risk of diabetes may be affected by other foods often consumed in meals featuring processed meats, since they are often accompanied by high fat condiments such as mayonnaise or side dishes such as French fries.
"We took into account other dietary factors, but it is not possible to entirely rule them out," said Dr Hu. "This result may reflect a typical unhealthy dietary pattern." Dr Hu stressed that further research was needed to determine if there was a link between processed meat and diabetes