Long-term animal-protein consumption is associated with an increased prevalence of diabetes among the elderly: the Mediterranean Islands (MEDIS) study

Diabetes Metab. 2010 Dec;36(6 Pt 1):484-90. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2010.06.007.


Aim: The role of animal-protein consumption on the prevalence of diabetes is not yet fully understood. For this reason, this study investigated the relationship between long-term animal-protein intake and diabetes in elderly individuals with no known cardiovascular disease.

Methods: During 2005-2007, 1190 men and women, aged 65-100 years, from Cyprus, Mitilini, Samothraki, Cephalonia, Crete, Lemnos, Corfu and Zakynthos were enrolled into the study. Diabetes was defined as fasting blood glucose ≥ 125 mg/dL or the use of antidiabetic medication. All participants were asked about their dietary habits through a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire. Assessment of protein and energy intakes was performed using food-composition tables.

Results: After adjusting for age, gender, obesity, history of hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia and dietary habits, a 5% increase in protein intake from meat and meat products was associated with a 34% (OR=1.338, 95% CI: 1.02-1.76) greater likelihood of diabetes, while a 5% increase in total protein intake was associated with a 29% (OR=1.288, 95% CI: 1.00-1.69) greater likelihood of diabetes. No significant associations between diabetes and protein intakes from vegetables and cereals were observed.

Conclusion: Animal-protein consumption was associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes among the elderly, whereas protein intakes, especially from plant sources, within the recommended range appear to confer considerable protection. This suggests that reducing or controlling the burden of diabetes through dietary means in the elderly should include monitoring their daily protein intake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cyprus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Mediterranean Islands / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Proteins