Harvard claims processed meat link to heart disease

A sausage a day could increase your risk of heart disease, according to the latest study by scientists into processed meats.

In a study by Harvard University, researchers found eating 50g of processed meat a day raised the risk of diabetes by 19%, as well as increasing the chance of developing coronary heart disease by 42%.

However, the study also claimed there was no such risk from eating unprocessed red meat, such as beef, lamb or pork.

The research has been published in the journal Circulation, and scientists speculate the risks are posed by quantities of salts and preservatives in the processed meat, rather than cholesterol and saturated fats.

The team from Harvard School of Public Health looked at 20 studies involving more than one million participants from 10 countries.

"Although cause-and-effect cannot be proven by these types of long-term observational studies, all of these studies were adjusted for other risk factors," Renata Micha, lead author told the BBC.

"Also, the lifestyle factors associated with eating unprocessed meats and processed meats were similar, but only processed meats were linked to higher risk."

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: "If you like red meat, this can still be included as part of a balanced heart-healthy diet.

"Go for lean cuts and aim to cook from scratch using healthier cooking methods, such as grilling or baking. If you need to add flavour, then try using fresh and dried herbs, spices and chillies instead of salt."

A Bpex spokesman said further research was needed before any dietary recommendations could be made.

"Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and processed deli meats can all form part of a balanced diet. The report focuses on a potential link between salt and nitrate preservatives and the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. It presents a speculative hypothesis and identifies that we need to understand a lot more about potential mechanisms linking salt and nitrate to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. We believe further research is needed before any dietary recommendations can be made.

"In addition, it seems misleading to focus on processed meat as a major contributor to this risk, as various studies indicate that high consumption of processed meat can be indicative of an overall poorly balanced diet: therefore it could be other aspects of the diet that are contributing to the increase in risk."

>> Eat less meat, says government-backed report

>> Meat 'vital' for healthy diet

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