Meat Consumption & the Development of Type 1 Diabetes?

Mycobacterium paratuberculosis is not just a serious problem for the global livestock industry, but may be a trigger for type 1 diabetes, given that paraTB bacteria have been found in the bloodstream of the majority of type 1 diabetics tested—presumably exposed through the retail milk supply, as they can survive pasteurization.

But, what about the meat supply? Mycobacterium paratuberculosis has been found in beef, pork, and chicken. It’s an intestinal bug, and unfortunately, “faecal contamination of the carcass” in the slaughter plant is simply unavoidable. And then, unless it’s cooked well-done, it “could harbor” living mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis bacteria.

Meat-wise, “[g]round beef [may represent] the greatest potential risk for harboring” these paratuberculosis bacteria, as “a significant proportion originates from culled dairy cattle,” which may be culled because they have paratuberculosis, and go straight into the human food chain. There’s also a greater prevalence of “fecal contamination” and “lymph nodes” in ground meat, and the grinding can force the bacteria deep inside the burger. “[G]iven the weight of evidence and the severity and magnitude of potential human health problems, the precautionary principle suggests that [it’s] time to take actions to limit…human exposure to [this pathogen].” In the very least, we should stop funneling animals known to be infected into the human food supply.

We know that milk exposure is associated with type 1 diabetes, but what about meat? An attempt was made to tease out the nutritional factors that could help account for the 350-fold variation in type 1 diabetes rates around the world. Why do some parts of the world have hundreds of times higher rates than others?

Yes, the more dairy populations ate, the higher their rates of type 1 diabetes. But, the same was found for meat, lending “credibility to the speculation that the increasing dietary supply of animal protein after World War II may have contributed to the…increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes.” And, there was a negative correlation, meaning a protective correlation, between the intake of grains and type 1 diabetes, which may fit within the more general context of “a lower prevalence of chronic diseases” among those eating more plant-based. And, “the increase in meat consumption over time” appeared to parallel the increasing incidence of the disease.

Now, you always have to be really cautious about the interpretation of these country-by-country comparisons, since just because a country eats a particular way doesn’t mean that the individuals that get the disease ate that way. For example, a similar study looking specifically at the diets of children and adolescents between different countries supported the “previous research about the importance of cow’s milk and animal products in the [cause] of type 1 diabetes.”

But, they also found that in countries where they tended to eat the most sugar, kids tended to have lower rates of the disease. Now, this didn’t reach statistical significance, since there were so few countries, but even if it had, and even if there were other studies to back it up, there are a million factors that could be going on, right? Maybe, countries that ate the least sugar ate the most high-fructose corn syrup, or something. You’ve always got to put it to the test. If you analyze the diet of what people who actually got the disease ate, increased risk of type 1 diabetes has been associated with milk, sugar, bread, soda, egg, and meat intake.

In Sardinia, where the original link was made between paraTB and type 1 diabetes, a highly “statistically significant dose-response relationship” was found—meaning more meat, more risk, especially during the first two years of the child’s life. So, “[h]igh meat consumption seems to be an important early in life cofactor for type 1 diabetes development,” although we need more data.

The latest such study, following thousands of “mother-child pairs,” found that eating meat during breastfeeding was associated with an increased risk of both preclinical and full-blown type 1 diabetes by the time their child reached age 8. They thought it might be the glycotoxins—the AGEs found in cooked meat, which can be transferred through breastfeeding.

But, what can also be transferred through human breast milk are paratuberculosis bacteria, which have been grown from the breast milk of women with Crohn’s disease—another autoimmune disease linked to paratuberculosis bacteria exposure.

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