Meat? Fine. Processed Meat? Not So Good.

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: August 18th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Watching what you eat? Go ahead and have that hamburger. But make sure you discard those strips of bacon lying on top of it first if you want to be good to your heart.

A new study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that regularly eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or deli meats, increases your risk of heart disease by as much as forty-two percent and your risk for type two diabetes by nineteen percent. By contrast, the researchers didn’t find any risk from eating unprocessed red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb.

For their findings, the researchers identified twenty relevant studies, which encompassed more than one-point-two million people from ten countries. They found that a one-point-eight ounce daily serving of processed meat — about two slices of deli meat or one hot dog — was enough to create the higher risk of disease. Meanwhile, they found no relationship between eating unprocessed red meat and a propensity toward heart problems or diabetes.

What made the results puzzling was that processed and unprocessed red meat have about the same amount of fat. So why the disparity? Processed meats have about four times as much sodium and fifty percent more nitrate preservatives. So researchers are concluding those factors may be to blame.

The American Heart Association recommends you stick mostly to fish, shellfish, poultry and trimmed lean meats, no more than six ounces per day. If you plan to eat deli meat, check the label for sodium information. You shouldn’t exceed more than twenty-four-hundred milligrams per day. Some deli meats have more than six-hundred milligrams per serving.

As a rule, say so long to the sausage and banish the bacon. Your heart will be happier in the long run.