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3 Reasons to Eat Less Bacon and Salami if You Want to Live Longer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Processed meats linked to three health risks that you can avoid altogether.

If you love bacon with your breakfast, ham or salami sandwiches or cold cuts a mainstay on a party tray, here are three good reasons you might want to cut back on eating the meats. Recent findings published in the journal BMC Open found three health risks from eating the processed meats that you probably should not completely ignore.

Cancer connected to processed meats
For every 50 grams of processed meats like bacon, ham or salami that a person eats was linked to an 18 percent higher chance of dying from cancer, the researchers found.

The investigation was large and included 450,000 people from 10 European countries who were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.

The connection between cancer and the meats comes from ingredients used in the processing, including smoking, pickling and salting that form cancer causing chemicals known as nitrosamines.

Past studies have confirmed eating red and processed meat is a risk factor for developing colorectal cancer.

The study that was carried out by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich in addition to researchers from all over Europe found higher chance of dying with 40 grams of processed meat consumption daily.

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Heart disease
Ham, bacon and salami are high in fat, which should be a no-brainer when it comes to increased risk of heart disease. The meats are high in cholesterol and we all know how that clogs arteries.

But if you think you might be immune to the effects, consider the fact that heart disease rates were still higher in people who ate the meats; after adjusting for other lifestyle factors like smoking, body mass index and other known health risks.

Early death
The authors estimated if people would lower the amount of red meat they consume, the incidence of overall death rates from cancer, heart disease and ‘other causes’ would be 3.3 percent lower among participants in the study. The suggestion is to keep consumption at 20/g a day or lower.

Harvard researchers published findings last year, showing consumption of one hot dog a day or 2 slices of bacon can raise the chances of dying by 20 percent. Red meat is also linked to increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Authors for the Harvard study concluded 1/2 less serving of red meat daily could have prevented 9.3 percent of deaths in men and 7.5 percent in women who were followed for 22 years as part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The authors are not saying shun processed meat like salami, hot dogs, bacon and ham altogether, because you can still get some vitamin B and iron from eating them. Of course, substituting for fish, chicken, tofu, beans and other sources of protein works too, without the health risks associated with red and processed meats.

BMC Medicine 2013, 11:63 BMC Medicine 2013, 11:63 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-63