Reduce your intake of ham, bacon, sausages, salami if you want to live longer, researchers suggest
Processed meats such as ham, bacon and sausages that have been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives appear to be to blame for health issues that lead to early death, researchers have found.
A study of 10,000 people in 10 countries across Europe, carried out over around 13 years, indicates that consumption of these foodstuffs leads to increased risk of cardiovascular and heart problems. Processed meat products have not previously been linked with heart problems.
It is believed that the damage is caused by the salt and chemicals used in preserving meat.
Researchers, whose study is reported in the British Medical Journal, found that people who consumed more than 160g of processed meat a day (which amounts to two sausages and a slice of bacon) were 44% more likely to die than those whose daily consumption was limited to 20g.
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Ursula Arens from the British Dietetic Association told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that eating good quality burgers was not classified as a health risk in this study. Putting fresh meat through a mincer did not make it processed meat, she advised.
'Something has been done to it to extend its shelf life, or to change its taste, or to make it more palatable in some way... and this could be a traditional process like curing or salting,' she said.
Even good quality ham or sausages were still classed as processed meat, while homemade burgers using fresh meat were not, Ursula added.
The Department of Health advises us to cut down on processed meat, switching instead to lean cuts of meat and lean mince products. Try also to vary your diet by eating other protein choices such as chicken, fish, beans or lentils.
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The World Cancer Research Fund has previously highlighted the link between consumption of processed meat products and bowel cancer. It is believed that there may be a link between the salt and preserving chemicals used in processed meat and the way it reacts with our stomach and intestinal linings.
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Zest says: We are big believers in mindful eating, so limiting your intake of foods that are treated or processed would seem to make good sense. However, remember too that red meat contains valuable protein and vitamins. Eating less but better quality meat has got to be a good idea.
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