- The article discusses a study that found a potential correlation between high consumption of processed meat and increased risks of early death.
- The researchers advised limiting intake of processed meat to under an ounce per day to decrease the risk of early deaths.
- The potential dangers of consuming processed meat are due to factors such as their rich cholesterol and saturated fat content, the presence of carcinogens due to treatment with nitrates, and a high intake of iron which may impose an escalated risk for certain types of cancer.
- Another key insight from the study is that people who consume high quantities of processed meat are often more likely to make other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and eating fewer fruits and vegetables.
- Despite the potential risks, the researchers do not advocate for complete abstinence from meat but instead recommend a balanced diet with limited processed and red meat intake.
A delightful scent of grilled hot dogs and sausages may be a familiar part of sporting events and outdoor gatherings, but a recent study involving nearly 450,000 individuals suggests that excessive consumption of processed meat could potentially diminish your lifespan.
Those who consumed the most processed meats saw a 44% increased risk of experiencing premature death. In broader terms, reducing consumption of processed meats could potentially decrease the rate of early deaths by approximately 3%, as reported by the Swiss researchers.
Advisable Limits on Processed Meat Intake
The prominent author of the study, Sabine Rohrmann who leads the cancer epidemiology and prevention division at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich, advised limiting processed meat intake to under an ounce per day.
The researchers were able to establish a correlation – but not causal link – between high consumption of processed meat and an increased risk of premature death. They had several hypotheses that may support the legitimacy of this connection.
Potential Dangers of Processed Meat
As Rohrmann explains, “Meat is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, which may be the link with coronary heart disease. Processed meat is also treated with nitrates for better durability, color, and taste. However, this treatment also yields carcinogens, which are associated with an increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers. Also, a high intake of iron from meat may impose an escalated risk for cancer.”
Related Studies and Expert Views
Many studies have associated meat consumption with elevated incidences of chronic diseases. As Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, suggests, eating more meat often leads to lower intake of plant-based foods, which are known to help prevent chronic diseases. “There is strong evidence backing a predominantly plant-based diet. However, even meat eaters can maintain a healthy diet by making informed choices, especially avoiding processed meats like bologna,” remarks Katz.
Published in the journal BMC Medicine, the study collected data from nearly 450,000 men and women who had no history of cancer, stroke, or heart disease at commencement. Information about diet, smoking habits, exercise routines, and weight levels were gathered. The study revealed higher mortality rates among those eating more than 40 grams of processed meat per day, compared with those consuming 10 to 20 grams per day. The risk escalated with the amount consumed: those who consumed 160 grams or more daily saw a 44% increase in risk compared to light consumers of meat.
Recommended Meat Intake
Rohrmann and her team, while acknowledging the nutritional value of meat, advise against complete abstinence from meat and recommend reducing processed meat intake and limiting red meat consumption to 300-600 grams per week, in line with other nutrition groups.
People who consumed the most processed meat were also more likely to make other unhealthy choices, such as smoking and eating fewer fruits and vegetables. Among men, those who consumed large quantities of meat were also more likely to indulge in alcohol, the researchers noted.
Challenges in Changing Dietary Habits
Samantha Heller, a clinical nutritionist at the NYU Center for Musculoskeletal Care, highlighted that the urge to reduce processed meat consumption to less than an ounce a day could be a daunting one. Easing public health concerns related to processed meat consumption would require significant education and effort from healthcare professionals, educators, and food companies to pivot towards a predominantly plant-based diet culture.
Concerns and Clarifications
Reactions to these findings have been mixed. The American Meat Institute expressed concerns over the study’s methodology. Betsy Booren, American Meat Institute Foundation Chief Scientist, stated, “Assuming the study’s conclusions are accepted, Americans should be reassured that their processed meat consumption is, on average, at the approximate level recommended by these researchers.”
For additional details on maintaining a healthy diet, you can visit U.S. Department of Agriculture.