Processed meats linked with more heart disease and diabetes

Do you avoid steak and hamburgers for your health’s sake, but prefer your pancakes and pizza with sausage?

Harvard researchers have found it’s the processed meats like the kind we often eat for breakfast and pile on our sub sandwiches that hurt our hearts, not unprocessed red meat.

Processed meats include any that have been smoked, salted, cured or preserved with chemicals — such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and all processed deli or lunch meats.

Unprocessed beef, hamburger, pork and lamb were classified as red meats in the study.

Researchers pooled findings in 20 relevant studies that included 1.2 million adults from 10 countries, and found higher consumption of unprocessed red meat wasn’t significantly associated with the risk of either coronary heart disease or diabetes.

However, it was a different story for higher consumption of processed meats: Each 50-gram serving (1.7 ounces) was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of diabetes.

Researchers found processed and unprocessed meats are about equal in terms of fat and calories, but processed meats on average contain four times the sodium and twice the nitrate preservatives. That suggests salt and other preservatives may be contributing to the higher risk in processed meats, according to the American Heart Association.

The association advises avoiding processed meats and other highly-processed foods for better health.

Previous studies have already linked consumption of processed meats with several kinds of cancer.

Does that mean you can eat a hamburger every day risk-free? Studies have also linked eating lots of red meat to cancer and a higher mortality rate.

One study last year led by a National Cancer Institute researcher found over a 10-year period that people who ate red meat every day (including both processed and unprocessed red meats) had a greater risk of dying than people who consumed the least amount of red meat. The higher death rate was attributed to heart disease and cancer.
 

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