6 ounces of processed meat a week increases the risk of heart disease


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A new study finds that eating even small amounts of processed meat can increase the risk of heart disease and death. blackCAT / Getty Images
  • A large study conducted over almost 10 years finds that eating even small amounts of processed meat, such as hot dogs, can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and death.
  • Experts say that the high content of salt, preservatives and fat in these foods could be the reason. They encourage people to eat a more plant-based diet while avoiding saturated fat.
  • Experts recommend eating all foods, including processed meat, in moderation.

Researchers from McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Canada have found that eating as little as 6 ounces of processed meat per week could significantly increase the risk of heart disease and death.

Meat is considered processed if it has been preserved by smoking, salting, curing, or adding preservatives.

That’s the equivalent of eating just two hot dogs, in a week.

“We found a consumption of 150 grams [just over 5 ounces] or more processed meat per week was associated with a 46 percent increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease and a 51 percent increased likelihood of death compared to those who did not consume processed meat, ”co-author Mahshid Dehghan, PhD, health researcher global at the David Braley Cardiac, Vascular, and Stroke Research Institute, told Healthline.

The new study was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dehghan and her team analyzed the diets and health outcomes of 134,297 people from 21 countries. The researchers tracked their meat consumption and rates of cardiovascular disease.

After following study participants for nearly 10 years, the researchers found that eating 150 grams (just over 5 ounces) or more of processed meat a week was associated with a nearly 50 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a 50 percent increased risk of death. for all causes than those who did not eat processed meat.

“The main limitation [of this study] it was that we could not include the cooking method of each country, “said Dehghan. “We recognize that this limitation could attenuate the association between raw red meat and poultry and health outcomes.”

Surprisingly, the researchers found that eating moderate levels of raw meat, such as beef, pork, or poultry, had a neutral effect on health.

“Observational studies can help determine links and associations, but they cannot determine causation,” said Lisa K. Diewald, MS, RD, LDN, program director for the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education at the College of Villanova University Nursing.

He explained that an observational study addressing diet and health risks, such as this one, is generally based on food frequency questionnaires (FFQ), which can be prone to errors from participants who underestimate or underestimate their intake.

“However, the large sample size in this study is helpful in mitigating this risk,” Diewald said. “In addition to the large sample size, the study staff were well-trained in the use of the FFQ, so the results can be considered more reliable.”

Dehghan said that the harmful effects of processed meat on health may not be due exclusively to its saturated fat or cholesterol content, since the amounts of these nutrients are similar in processed and unprocessed meats.

He also noted that the amounts of preservatives and food additives in processed and unprocessed meats can differ markedly, which may partly explain the different health effects the study found.

“So we realize that eating a high content of processed meat is bad for your health,” said Dr. Johanna Contreras, director of heart failure at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York. “They have a high concentration of salt, which increases blood pressure, weight and heart disease.”

She added that it is well known that artificial preservatives are toxic to the human body and that some processed meats are high in saturated fat and salt, “which are also detrimental to heart function and will increase cardiovascular mortality.”

“It is tempting to conclude that meat substitutes or meat analogs provide a tasty and healthy alternative for those seeking the flavor of meat without additional health risks,” said Diewald. “These products include meat-flavored crumbs, vegetarian hot dogs, ground beef alternatives, and a host of vegan-prepared foods.”

He emphasized that while consumers can perceive These foods are healthier than their meat-based counterparts, this is not always true.

“Not all of these meat substitutes are healthy and consumers may be trading one problem for another,” he said.

According to Diewald, these foods are often another form of processed foods, which means they can still contain excessive amounts of salt, sugar, artificial colors, and other ingredients used in any highly processed food.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified red meat consumption as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and found strong evidence that eating processed meat is associated with cancers of the colon, pancreas and prostate.

Previous investigate It has also shown that red and processed meats are associated with cardiovascular disease.

But does this mean that we must completely eliminate meat from our diet?

“I think you could consider small amounts or in moderation,” Contreras said.

He added that it is preferable to eat lean meat and unprocessed food, in a state that is as natural as possible, since it is more nutritious and healthy that way.

“My best recommendation is to avoid processed foods in general and try to use more natural organic foods: vegetables, fruits and unsaturated fats with low salt content,” said Diewald.

He added that while an observational study does not usually find conclusive evidence for an increased risk of heart disease, “this study clearly builds on and expands on the current body of evidence” indicating an association between eating processed meat and increased heart rate. risk of illness.

“He also distinguished between processed and unprocessed meats to determine the impact on heart disease risk,” he concluded. “This information is helpful for consumers to make healthier food selections.”

A large study conducted over nearly 10 years finds that eating even small amounts of processed meats, such as hot dogs, can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and death.

Experts say that the high salt, preservative and fat content of these foods could be the reason. They encourage people to eat a more plant-based diet while avoiding saturated fat.

Experts also emphasize that while an observational study is not usually considered conclusive evidence, this new research builds on previous studies that also find an association between processed meat and heart disease.

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