Processed red meats may raise men’s heart failure risk

By Christine Boatwright • Published: September 16th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When firing up the grill, you may want to think twice about the type of meat you cook. A recent study suggests that men who eat processed red meats such as hot dogs and salami may have a higher risk of developing heart failure than those who stick with unprocessed red meats like steaks.

The Swedish study collected data on more than 37,000 men ages 45 to 79 with no history of heart failure, heart disease or cancer. The study participants answered questions about their diets and lifestyles, including processed meat consumption over the past year. The questionnaire also asked about unprocessed meat consumption, such as beef and veal.

Processed red meats are preserved through smoking, salting or adding preservatives such as salts, nitrates and phosphates. Unprocessed meats are free from food additives and typically have lower amounts of salt.

The study found that men who ate 2.6 ounces of processed meat per day, about two or three slices of ham, had a 28-percent higher risk of heart failure and more than twice the risk of death from heart failure compared with men who ate less than one ounce of processed meat per day.

At the end of the study, nearly 2,900 men were diagnosed with heart failure and 266 died from the condition. According to the study, the researchers expect processed meat affects women in much the same way.

The study didn’t prove that processed meat will cause heart failure, but did point to an association between the two. The relationship between diet and lifestyle habits is complicated, but prior studies have also linked the consumption of processed red meat with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

The best advice to follow is that of the American Heart Association. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods, while reserving the backyard barbecue for very special occasions.