EATING bacon for breakfast every day can increase the risk of developing diabetes by more than 50pc, say researchers.
A large-scale study found a "strong association" between the consumption of red meat and Type 2 diabetes, especially when it is processed.
Specifically, a daily 50g serving of processed meat -- equivalent to one sausage or two slices of bacon -- was associated with a 51pc increase in risk.
Eating twice that amount of unprocessed red meat, a portion about the size of a deck of cards, led to a 19pc greater likelihood of diabetes.
Researchers in the US looked at diabetes rates among more than 37,000 men and two groups of women, together numbering more than 167,000.
They also pooled together data from other studies, including a total of 442,101 participants. The proportions of people developing diabetes over periods of decades were examined in relation to recorded dietary habits.
Adjustments were made to take account of age, weight related to height, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors.
The findings, published yesterday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also showed that replacing red meat with healthier protein from low-fat dairy products, nuts or wholegrains significantly lowered the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Lead researcher Professor Frank Hu, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said: "Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising Type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide.
"The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein."
Replacing one daily serving of red meat with a serving of nuts was associated with a 21pc reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
The risk was lowered by 17pc by substituting a low-fat dairy product, and 23pc by substituting wholegrains.
Previous research has indicated that eating processed meats may raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes. However the evidence linking consumption of unprocessed meat and the disease has been less certain.
"Our study clearly shows that eating both unprocessed and processed red meat -- particularly processed -- is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes," said Prof Hu.
Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body can no longer manage its blood sugar levels, is largely associated with obesity and lifestyle.