A team of researchers -- led by Dr. Lu Qi of the Harvard School of Public Health -- examined more than 6,100 women who had participated in the Nurses' Health Study, and who had reported being diagnosed with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.
Lu's research team conducted follow-up interviews with the women from 1980 through 2000. During those 20 years, the diabetic women reported 550 new cases of heart disease.
Lu's team found that the women's risk of developing heart disease was associated with their intake of "heme" iron, which is far more easily absorbed by the body than other types of dietary iron. Heme iron is typically found in red meat, chicken liver, clams and oysters.
The researchers found that -- after accounting for body weight and age -- the diabetic women who consumed the highest amounts of heme iron ran a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease, compared to those with the lowest intake. Postmenopausal, type 2 diabetic women ran the highest risk, Lu's team found.
According to Lu, it would be prudent for type 2 diabetics -- especially postmenopausal women with the disease -- to "limit consumption of heme iron and red meat."
Consumer advocate Mike Adams, author of "Grocery Warning," said increasing amounts of scientific evidence show that eating red meat can be a danger to consumers' health.
"In addition to greatly increasing the risk of colon cancer and pancreatic cancer, red meat now appears to be especially dangerous to diabetics," Adams said. "This is yet more evidence that diabetics would be well served to shift to plant-based diets that avoid processed foods and animal products."