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Processed meat can be bad for your health, here’s why !!

All of you out there crave for delicious dishes that have meat in them. Who doesn't like t get a bite out of that big mac n cheeseburger? The more spicy, thick and juicy your hamburger is the better. Not just hamburgers, but hot dogs, ham, sausage, bacon etc. But most of these products come under the category of processed meat. You can't probably think of anything more delicious than these dishes huh ?

But here is the thing meat may be healthy and all, but that should not be your excuse for consuming processed red meat on a daily basis. Cos researchers have found out that consuming a lot of processed red meat could lead to plenty of serious diseases. 

Red and processed meat consumption may be linked to greater risk for bowel and lung cancer

A study has found that individuals who consumed a lot of processed and red meat have a greater risk of developing bowel and lung cancer than people who consumed these kinds of meat but only in small quantities.

The Study !!

The researchers studied this data from a large US diet and health study which began in 1995 and involved nearly half a million men and women of the ages of 50-71.

Individuals who weren’t diagnosed with cancer previously completed a questionnaire regarding their dietary habits during the previous year.

The Results!!

  • It was found that individuals whose red meat consumption was in the top 5th of the range of intakes recorded in the study were at serious risk of developing, liver, lung, esophageal and colorectal cancer when compared to individuals in the lowest fifth of consumption.   
  • However, people in the highest fifth of processed meat consumption had an increased risk of developing colorectal and lung cancer.
  • The results seemed to provide evidence that individuals who consumed a lot of red and processed meat had a greater risk of developing colorectal and lung cancer than individuals who consumed in small quantities.    
  •  It was also observed that individuals who had a high red meat consumption were linked with an increased risk of esophageal and liver cancer.  
  • Also, one in ten colorectal cancers and one in ten lung cancers could be avoided if people decreased their red and processed meat intake to the lowest quintile.

However, researchers also attribute to other factors such as smoking that could have affected cancer incidence. It is also possible that other factors could have an influence. Regarding the types of meat that may be causing the problem, researchers aren’t sure as to which meat may be more likely to cause problems in people(bacon and ham were included in the list).

Researchers conclude that the decreased consumption of red meat and processed meats could significantly decrease the incidence of several types of cancer. 

The research was carried out by Amanda Cross and a group of researchers at the U.S National Cancer Institute.  

Processed meat may be linked to a higher risk of heart failure and death in Men !!

In a new study, it was found that men who regularly consumed moderate amounts of processed red meat like ham and sausages had higher risks of heart failure incidence and a greater risk of death from heart failure. 

About Processed Meats!!

Processed meats are generally preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Some of which can include sausages, hot dogs or bacon.

Processed red meat usually contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates, and other food additives. While smoked and grilled meats contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons all of which may contribute to higher chances of heart6 failure risk. 

In the case of unprocessed meat, it is probably much safer, as this kind of meat is usually free form food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium.

The Study!!

Researchers examined the effects of red meat separately from unprocessed red meat with the help of 37,035 men who were around the ages of 45-79 years of age. Also, these men were checked in for having no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease or cancer. Individuals then completed a questionnaire on food intake and other lifestyle factors and researchers monitored them from the period of 1998 to the date of heart failure diagnosis, death or for successfully reaching the end of the study.

The Results!!

After a period of twelve years of follow up, researchers were able to obtain the following results -

  • Heart failure was diagnosed in 2981 men and 266 men died from heart failure.
  • Men who consumed the most processed red meat(which included 75 grams per day or more) had a 28% higher risk of heart failure compared to men who ate at least (25 grams per day or less) after adjusting for multiple lifestyle variables.
  • Men who consumed the most processed red meat had more than a 2 fold increased risk of death from heart failure compared to men in the lowest category.
  • For each 50 gram (1-2 slices of ham) increase in daily consumption of processed meat, the risk of heart failure incidence increased by 8 % and the risk of death from a heart failure exceeded by 38 %.
  • However, the risk of heart failure or death among individuals who consumed unprocessed red meat didn’t increase.

Comparing results from previous studies !!

At the beginning of the study, individuals completed a 96 item questionnaire about their diet.

The processed meat questions focused on consumption of sausages, cold cuts(ham/salami), blood pudding/sausages and liver plate. While the unprocessed meat questions covered the pork and beef, which included a hamburger or ground minced meat. 

The results of the study for total red meat consumption were found to be consistent with the findings from the previous study, where males who consumed the most total red meat had a 24 % higher risk of heart failure incidence compared to those who consumed the least.

What do researchers have to say?

To decrease the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases from arising in individuals, researchers suggest the following tips -

  • Avoiding processed red meat in the diet.      
  • Limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to just one or two servings per week or less.    
  •  Instead of consuming processed red meat, individuals should tr consu8ming more of a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts.   
  • Also, individuals who still crave for the non-vegetarian food should try opting another healthier choice ie, increase the amount of fish they have in their diet.

The research was carried out by Joanna Kaluza, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland and Alicja Wolk, DM.Sc, professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.