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Is there a Risk Of Early Death from Processed Meat

Mar 8th, 2013

Risk Of Early Death from Processed Meat

Risk Of Early Death from Processed Meat

People who consume too much processed meat such as hot dogs and bacon have a greater risk of early death, a recent study in Europe said.

For the study, published in the Journal BMC Medicine, scientists followed nearly half a million people in 10 European countries for an average of 13 years. None of the participants had had cancer, a heart attack, or stroke at the start of the study. Data on diet, smoking, exercise, and weight were also recorded.

During the course of the study, more than 26,000 participants had died.

Scientists found that people who eat at least 160 grams of processed meat every day were 44 percent more likely to die earlier compared with those who limited their consumption to 20 grams a day.

“The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer,” said Sabine Rohrmann PhD, study author and professor at the University of Zurich.

Almost 3 percent of premature deaths would have been prevented if people ate less processed meat, researchers said.

“Our recommendation is to limit processed meat intake to less than an ounce a day,” Rohrmann said. “As processed meat consumption is a modifiable risk factor, health promotion activities should include specific advice on lowering processed meat consumption,” she added.

The study only showed an association between eating processed meat and early death, and not a cause-and-effect relationship. However, scientists believe there are several reasons that support the link between them.

“We know of some potential mechanisms that probably all contribute,” Rohrmann said. “Meat is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, which may be the link with coronary heart disease.”

Nitrates commonly added to processed meat to enhance flavor, color, and durability is a known carcinogen, Rohrmann said.

She also added that the high iron intake from meat increases the risk for cancer.

However, scientists do not recommend avoiding meat altogether owing to some health benefits associated with it. As always, the key is moderation.

“Since meat is also rich in certain minerals and vitamins, we do not recommend not to eat meat anymore, but to reduce the intake of processed meats and to limit the intake of red meat to about 300 to 600 grams per week as recommended by other nutrition groups,” Rohrmann said.


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