WEDNESDAY, March 31, 2021 (HealthDay News) — That piece of sausage you’re about to enjoy? You may want to put it down for something healthier.
New research found an association between eating even small amounts of processed meats, 150 grams (a little over 5 ounces) per week, and a higher risk of major heart disease and death.
But not all meat is bad: The study, which includes data from 21 countries, also found that eating up to 250 grams (just under 9 ounces) per week of unprocessed meat, even red meat, was neutral in terms of cardiovascular disease.
Why are processed meats, such as hot dogs, cold cuts and bacon, considered to be so unhealthy?
“We believe this might be the result of food preservatives, food additives and color because if you compare, cholesterol and saturated fat in unprocessed and also processed are very similar, the difference is in food additives and color and nitrate,” said study author Mahshid Dehghan, an investigator at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Ontario, Canada.
Most past evidence on meat intake and health outcomes comes from studies that were done in North America, Europe and Japan. The amount and type of meat consumed in those areas differs from some other parts of the world, including South Asia and Africa, , according to the study.
Enter PURE, a long-term study that is tracking dietary habits and health outcomes of more than 164,000 people in countries that include those with low, middle and high incomes. The study launched in 2003. It uses food frequency questionnaires. Researchers also collected other health data.
In the study, unprocessed red meat was beef, lamb, veal and pork. Poultry included all birds. Processed meat was any meat that had been salted, cured or treated with food preservatives or additives.
The increased risk was incurred with even a small amount of processed meat, according to the study.
“I would say it’s about two servings per week. A medium-sized sausage is about 75 grams. Having two sausages per week is associated with this amount of increasing risk,” Dehghan said. “The message of our study is really limiting consumption, very limited amount of once in a while, not very frequent consumption.”