Systematic review of clinical studies related to pork intake and metabolic syndrome or its components

Nicolas Stettler, Mary M. Murphy, Leila M. Barraj, Kimberly M. Smith, Rexford S. Ahima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Globally, both the incidence of type 2 diabetes and the consumption of meat, in particular pork meat, have increased, concurrently. Processed meats have been associated with an increased risk for diabetes in observational studies. Therefore, it is important to understand the possible mechanisms of this association and the impact of meats from different species. The goal of this systematic review was to assess experimental human studies of the impact of pork intake compared with other protein sources on early markers for the development of diabetes, ie, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and the components of the metabolic syndrome. A systematic review was conducted searching PubMed and EMBASE and using the Cochrane and PRISMA guidelines. Eight studies were eligible and critically reviewed. Five studies were based on a single meal or single day exposure to pork, as compared with other sources of protein. The glucose-insulin response following the pork meals did not differ compared with beef, shrimp, or mixed sources of proteins. However, compared with eggs, ham (processed meat) led to a larger insulin response in nonobese subjects. Compared with whey, ham led to a smaller insulin response and a larger glucose response. These fndings suggest possible mechanisms for the association between processed meat and the development of diabetes. Nonprocessed pork meats were not compared with eggs or whey. The three longer interventions (11 days to 6 months) did not show a signifcant impact of pork on the components of the metabolic syndrome, with the exception of a possible beneft on waist circumference and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (one study each with signifcant limitations). Most of the fndings are weak and there is a lack of solid evidence. The literature on the topic is limited and important research gaps are identifed. Considering recent trends and projections for diabetes and pork intake, this is an important global public health question that requires more attention in order to provide improved evidence-based dietary recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-357
Number of pages11
JournalDiabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy
StatePublished - Sep 24 2013


  • Blood glucose
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance
  • Meat
  • Triglycerides
  • Waist circumference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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