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Health & Families

Deli meats, sausages or bacon = a heart attack on a plate

If you're thinking the ideal dinner is sausage and peppers, or anything with bacon is better, then you may need to rethink your food choices. A new study recommends avoiding processed meats for the health of your heart and blood sugar, but not unprocessed meats.

On May 17, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that  those who enjoy a daily diet of 50g of processed meats had a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease while the likelihood of type-2 diabetes increased by 19 percent. They published their findings in the online edition of the journal Circulation.

The good news is that unprocessed red meats including beef, pork and lamb, did not pose any risk. Given that both unprocessed and processed meats have the same amount of saturated fats and cholesterol, the link between the higher risk appears to be associated with the quadruple amount of sodium and other preservatives found in processed meats, said co-author and leader of the study Renata Micha, RD, PhD, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at HSPH, in a video clip.

Micha explained, "Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes" as no study has "separately considered the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats."

The research team analyzed roughly 1,600 studies and found 20 relevant that looked at 1,218,380 participants from 10 countries throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. All of the various types of meat, excluding poultry, were classified by the way they are preserved, such as use of salt, smoked, cured and added chemicals in the case of processed meats.

The authors noted that their initial inquiry which included strokes was not sufficient to derive a conclusion, given the fact that not enough studies had researched the link between strokes and meat.

Micha recommends avoiding processed daily meats and that once a week having 50g or less would not increase your risk for heart attacks or diabetes.

Full study"Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis": http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.924977v1