Salty Processed Meats Increase Heart Disease Risk More Than Red Meat

2010-05-18 10:19

When it comes to eating meat, many studies have focused on the fat content and its effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A new study from Harvard University breaks it down further and finds that processed meat is more harmful to health than regular cuts of red meat, despite having similar fat contents.

* Read: Red Meat, Obesity Raise Risk of Colon Cancer

The team, led by Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed 20 studies involving more than one million participants from 10 countries.

On average, for each 50 gram serving of processed meat, or 1.8 ounces, per day there was an associated 42% higher chance of developing coronary heart disease and a 19% higher risk of diabetes. This equates to one hot dog or one sausage patty, or two slices of deli meat. Those who ate one serving or less per week had the lowest risk.

There was not an associated risk with unprocessed red meats, including beef, lamb, and pork, even though fat content, saturated fat, and cholesterol were about the same.


The authors suggest the difference is the salt and preservatives added to the processed meat, which includes any product made by smoking, curing, or salting such as bacon, sausage, salami, hot dogs, and luncheon meats.

Salt is known to increase blood pressure, which is a key factor for heart disease, and processed meats contain about four times more sodium than unprocessed meats. The nitrate preservatives have been shown in animal experiments to promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance.

Read: Processed Foods Increase Risk for Depression


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