A large new study of half a million people across Europe, published in the medical journal BMC Medicine, has found that people who regularly eat processed meats (ham, bacon, hot dogs, salami, some sausages, and ready-to-eat packaged meats) appear to increase their risk of an early death from cardiovascular disease and cancers.
The study, conducted by experts from multiple universities across Europe analyzed data on diet and mortality collected on 448,568 European men and women who were healthy and between 35 and 69 years old at the beginning of the study.
The study report was published on March 7, 2013 in BMC Medicine, an open access medical journal of Biomed Central.
The Study; Method
The researchers analyzed data collected on 448,568 men and women across Europe, collected as part of a large, ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) which commenced between 1992 and 2000 in the different countries in Europe.
The participants were between 35 and 69 years old at the beginning of the study, and none of the participants had suffered from cancer, stroke, or a heart attack at baseline.
The researchers compiled “complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index” on the participants, and followed them for periods of time, varying by Country, ranging from approximately five to 17 years.
By June 2009, when the last of the follow-up periods ended, 26,344 of the participants had died. Deaths and causes of death were determined based on official government registries.
The researchers used statistical analyses to “examine the association of red meat, processed meat, and poultry consumption with the risk of early death” and with specific causes of death, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and others.
The researchers found that “a high consumption of red meat was related to higher all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01 to 1.28, 160+ versus 10 to 19.9 g/day), and the association was stronger for processed meat (HR = 1.44, 95% CI 1.24 to 1.66, 160+ versus 10 to 19.9 g/day).”
However, “After correction for measurement error,” they found that “higher all-cause mortality remained significant only for processed meat (HR = 1.18, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.25, per 50 g/d).”
As summarized by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) in its report on the study, “One of the main findings was that people in the study who ate the most processed meat (160g or more per day) had a 44% increased risk of dying during follow-up compared to those who ate the least (20g or less).”
“We estimated that 3.3% (95% CI 1.5% to 5.0%) of deaths could be prevented if all participants had a processed meat consumption of less than 20 g/day [grams per day],” the researchers stated.
Twenty grams is the equivalent of less than one ounce (0.705479 oz). That translates to roughly two thinly sliced slices of deli cold cuts per day, depending on the thickness of the slices.
In addition, the researchers found that “Significant associations with processed meat intake were observed for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and ‘other causes of death’.” “The consumption of poultry was not related to all-cause mortality,” they found.
“The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers said that salt and the chemicals used to preserve processed meat could be the causes of the damage to one’s health that appears to be associated with consuming processed meats.
Based on this and other research, some European and British health experts are advising people to avoid all processed meats in their diets, according to reporting by the BBC.
Watch a short video from BBC News »
In its report on the study, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) observes, “as the authors rightly conclude, the main limitation of the study is that it cannot completely exclude the possibility of residual confounding – that is, that the effects of these demographic, health and lifestyle factors, or others unmeasured, have not been fully accounted for.”
The NHS concludes, “These limitations apart, the study provides reasonably good evidence to support the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet, containing a high amount of fruit and vegetables. At the same time, it is important to moderate your consumption of foods high in salt, fat and sugar, which includes many processed foods.”
See related HelpingYouCare® reports on:
For more information on healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:
- Diet & Nutrition: Physical Wellness;
- Exercise: Physical Wellness;
- Sleep, Hygiene, Quit Smoking & Other Healthy Practices: Physical Wellness;
- Activities to Preserve Mental Acuity: Intellectual Wellness;
- Social Interaction & A Sense of Connection With Others: Social Wellness;
- Other Areas of Wellness: Emotional, Ethical/ Spiritual & Vocational Wellness; and
- Healthy Living: Stories of Inspiring Seniors.
Copyright © 2013 Care-Help LLC, publisher of HelpingYouCare®. In text; not video: all rights reserved.