Mar. 9, 2013 (TSR) – A major study has shown that diets laden with sausages, ham, bacon and other processed meats appear to increase the risk of dying young, according to media reports on Thursday.
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, revealed that diets high in processed meats were linked with cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths.
Researchers also said that salt and chemicals used to preserve the meat may damage health.
The study followed almost 450,000 people aged 35 to 69 from 10 European countries for nearly 13 years on average.
It showed people who ate a lot of processed meat were also more likely to smoke, be obese and have other behaviors known to damage health.
However, the researchers said even after those risk factors were accounted for, processed meat still damaged health.
It showed that people who ate more than 160g of processed meat a day — roughly three sausages — had a much greater chance of dying prematurely. The risk of dying from any cause was 44 percent greater for such people.
High processed meat consumption led to a 72 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease, and an 11 percent increased risk of dying from cancer.
The research defined a “high consumption of processed meat” as 160 or more grams per day.
“Overall, we estimate that 3% of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20g processed meat per day,” study leader Professor Sabine Rohrmann, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said.
Meat is actually an essential part of our diet, researchers said, but to also focus and consideration on how meat was processed should also be taken into account, such preservatives, salt content, and meat content.
It is not the first study to point to the dangers of too much processed meat — a major U.S. report last year said they can dramatically increase the chance of death from heart disease and cancer.
Red meat includes beef, lamb and pork including minced beef, pork chops and roast lamb. It does not include chicken or turkey meat.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, pastrami and salami, as well as hot dogs and some sausages. Hamburgers and minced meats only count as processed meat if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives.
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is one of the main sources of vitamin B12, also found in milk.
There is mounting evidence that processed meats can damage health.
Being fit and well is about more than just processed meat. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, not smoking, not drinking too much and getting plenty of exercise are all good for health.
The Mediterranean diet, which is also packed with fruit, vegetables and healthy oily fish, is likely to boost lifespan for people – even if some elements may have a question mark next to them.
Consuming healthier meat or meat products, such as lean cuts of meat and lean mince and cut down on processed meat is highly advisable, but a healthy, balanced diet containing other good sources of iron – such as lentils, beans, eggs, fish, chicken, nuts and breakfast cereals – is even better.
All things being equal, the evidence on the dangers of processed meat is mounting, but it is important not to lose sight of the big picture. Saying “I’m giving up bacon”, while “smoking 40-a-day” probably won’t end well.