May 18, 2010

Do Processed Meats Pose A Health Risk?

US researchers revealed a study on Monday that showed meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed meats can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Unprocessed meats, including beef, pork and lamb appeared not to raise the risk of heart attacks and diabetes, the researchers said, suggesting that salt and preservatives may be the real cause of the serious health problems associated with eating meat.

The study, which was taken from analysis of other research, did not look at high blood pressure or cancer, which are also linked with meat consumption.

"People should be considering what types of meats they are eating" to help lower the risk of heart attacks and diabetes, said Renata Micha of the Harvard School of Public Health, whose study appears in the journal Circulation.

"Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid," Micha said in a statement.

Most dietary guidelines recommend eating less meat. Individual studies looking at the link between meat consumption and heart disease and diabetes have had mixed results.

But studies hardly ever look for differences in risk between processed and unprocessed meats, Micha said.

Micha and her colleagues reviewed nearly 1600 studies from around the world looking for a link between processed and unprocessed red meat and the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

They defined processed meat as any meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting or with chemical preservatives.

They found that on average, each 1.8 oz daily serving of processed meat per day was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.

They found no links to heart disease or diabetes in people who ate only unprocessed red meats.

The team took into consideration a number of factors, including how much red meat people ate.

"When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol," Micha told Reuters.

"In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives," Micha added.

Last month, the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt added to foods to help Americans cut their high sodium intake.


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