A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that processed, canned meat products -- these are collectively known as "spam," as is the brand-name version of the canned meat popularly known as "SPAM" -- are linked to a double risk of developing diabetes. Particularly among American Indians who consume lots of spam given them by the U.S. government, diabetes risk is exceptionally high.
Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine surveyed 2,000 Native Americans from Arizona, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota as part of a study that aimed to figure out why diabetes rates are so high among this particular ethnic group. What they came to discover was that canned meat products, which are typically very high in processed sodium and other additives and preservatives, were very clearly linked to elevated rates of diabetes.
Among the 500 study participants who consumed the most canned meat products, a whopping 85 percent of them developed diabetes in the time leading up to the five-year study follow-up. In contrast, only 44 percent of those among the 500 who ate the least amount of canned meat products developed diabetes. None of the participants had diabetes at the start of the study.
"A lot of communities in this study are in very rural areas with limited access to grocery stores ... and they want to eat foods that have a long shelf life," explained Amanda Fretts, lead author of the study, to Reuters.
Though the researchers say they are unsure exactly why canned meat products are linked to diabetes, the high salt content in canned meat products could be at least one factor. A single 12-ounce can of Hormel's SPAM Classic, for instance, contains nearly 5,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is basically all processed salt rather than nutritive sea salt (http://www.hormelfoods.com/brands/spam/default.aspx).
But another cause could have to do with the "unique" way canned meat is processed, as researchers did not see a similar rise in diabetes rates among those who consumed unprocessed meats. Some varieties of Hormel's SPAM products, for instance, contain "mechanically separated" meat products similar to those used in McDonald's chicken McNuggets ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com).
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