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High fructose corn syrup and processed, refined grains may be responsible for many of the cases of type 2 diabetes plaguing Americans, but there’s another culprit, according to new research: meat.

Researchers out of France studied the dietary habits of a group of more than 66,000 women over fourteen years and concluded that those whose diets were more acidic were also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. During the study period, 1,372 new cases of diabetes were noted in the high acid diet group. Acidic diets and chronic acidosis are typically high in meat products. Chronic acidosis—high levels of acidity in the blood and body tissue—reduces the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

According to the Daily Mail, “Women whose potential renal acid load (Pral) scores were in the top 25 per cent had a 56 per cent greater risk of developing diabetes than those in the bottom 25 per cent.” (Pral is the impact foods may have on kidney and urine acid levels.)

Conversely, the same study found that those participants who ate a diet higher in fresh fruits and vegetables that neutralized acidity were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. “The least acid-forming foods include coffee, fruit and vegetables,” reports the Daily Mail. “The researchers, from the INSERM medical research institute in Paris, said that while oranges and lemons are acidic at the outset, after digestion, they actually reduce the amount of acid in the body,” and the researchers noted that “Contrary to what is generally believed, most fruits such as peaches, apples, pears and bananas and even lemons and oranges actually reduce dietary acid load once the body has processed them.”

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Image: Pamela Graham