Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
According to the aging crooner Morrissey, “meat is murder,” yet a new study in the journal BMC Medicine suggests the eating too much meat may also be suicide.
An international study involving almost half a million people and spanning an average of 13 years found a direct correlation between the consumption of processed meats and fatal health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“Risks of dying earlier from cancer and cardiovascular disease also increased with the amount of processed meat eaten,” said lead author Sabine Rohrmann of the University of Zurich. “Overall, we estimate that 3 percent of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20 grams processed meat per day.”
The study´s authors define processed meat as meat that has been treated in some way to extend its shelf life, change its taste, or make it more palatable.
Although people who ate higher amounts of processed meat were also more likely to engage in smoking, be overweight and have other associated risk factors — the researchers accounted for these additional risk factors and still found that processed meat had a negative impact on long-term health outcomes.
While one in every 17 people died over the course of the study, those eating more than 160 grams of processed meat per day — the equivalent of about two sausages and a slice of bacon — were 44 percent more likely to die earlier than those who ate only around 20 grams. Overall, the study encompassed roughly 10,000 cancer-related deaths and 5,500 deaths related to cardiovascular disease.
“We estimated that 3.3 percent of all deaths could be prevented if processed meat consumption were below” 20 grams per day, the authors wrote.
In the report, the team said their statistics on participants´ deaths were taken from death certificate records, noting that these records are known to over represent death due to heart attack.
The report also mentioned that the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) has found a direct connection between both red and processed meat and an increased mortality risk. In fact, that organization suggested a stronger risk correlation for red meat over processed meat.
Many health experts have spoken out on behalf of the BMC report and advocate for measure to be taken against the heavy consumption of processed meats.
“This research adds to the body of scientific evidence highlighting the health risks of eating processed meat,” Dr. Rachel Thompson, from the World Cancer Research Fund, told the BBC News. “Our research, published in 2007 and subsequently confirmed in 2011, shows strong evidence that eating processed meat, such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami and some sausages, increases the risk of getting bowel cancer.”
“This is why World Cancer Research Fund recommends people avoid processed meat,” Thompson added.
Tracy Parker, a spokesperson from the British Heart Foundation, also told the UK news agency that processed meat might be linked to an early death, but that other dietary choices may have also played a role.
“[The study subjects] were found to eat less fruit and vegetables and were more likely to smoke, which may have had an impact on results,” she said. “Red meat can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.”