Effects of Total Red Meat Intake on Glycemic Control and Inflammatory Biomarkers: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Adv Nutr. 2021 Feb 1;12(1):115-127. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa096.


Our objective was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the effects of total red meat (TRM) intake on glycemic control and inflammatory biomarkers using randomized controlled trials of individuals free from cardiometabolic disease. We hypothesized that higher TRM intake would negatively influence glycemic control and inflammation based on positive correlations between TRM and diabetes. We found 24 eligible articles (median duration, 8 weeks) from 1172 articles searched in PubMed, Cochrane, and CINAHL up to August 2019 that included 1) diet periods differing in TRM; 2) participants aged ≥19 years; 3) included either men or women who were not pregnant/lactating; 4) no diagnosed cardiometabolic disease; and 5) data on fasting glucose, insulin, HOMA-IR, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), C-reactive protein (CRP), or cytokines. We used 1) a repeated-measures ANOVA to assess pre to post diet period changes; 2) random-effects meta-analyses to compare pre to post changes between diet periods with ≥ vs. <0.5 servings (35g)/day of TRM; and 3) meta-regressions for dose-response relationships. We grouped diet periods to explore heterogeneity sources, including risk of bias, using the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Quality Assessment of Controlled Interventions Studies. Glucose, insulin, and HOMA-IR values decreased, while HbA1c and CRP values did not change during TRM or alternative diet periods. There was no difference in change values between diet periods with ≥ vs. <0.5 servings/day of TRM [weighted mean differences (95% CIs): glucose, 0.040 mmol/L (-0.049, 0.129); insulin, -0.710 pmol/L (-6.582, 5.162); HOMA-IR, 0.110 (-0.072, 0.293); CRP, 2.424 nmol/L (-1.460, 6.309)] and no dose response relationships (P > 0.2). Risk of bias (85% of studies were fair to good) did not influence results. Total red meat consumption, for up to 16 weeks, does not affect changes in biomarkers of glycemic control or inflammation for adults free of, but at risk for, cardiometabolic disease. This trial was registered at PROSPERO as 2018 CRD42018096031.

Keywords: adults at risk for cardiometabolic disease; animal-based protein sources; beef; plant-based protein sources; pork; type 2 diabetes risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Glycemic Control
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Lactation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Red Meat*


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin