We know is that animal fats aren’t the good fats our bodies need. And we know that red meat is best consumed in moderation and then only the leanest cuts should be considered. We’ve also learned the enormous benefits of a plant-based diet, especially for those who have experienced heart problems. With all that in mind, this new research certainly makes a great deal of sense. It concerns processed red meats — things like sausage, hot dogs and lunch meats, and its results are fairly substantial.
According to a study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure, men who consume moderate amounts of processed red meat may have an increased risk of occurrence and death from heart failure.
“Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk,” said Alicja Wolk, D.M.Sc., senior author of the study and professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. “Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium.”
The Cohort of Swedish Men study is, in fact, the first to investigate the effects of processed red meat independently from unprocessed red meat. It included 37,035 men age 45 to 79 years of age with no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease, or cancer. Study participants finished a questionnaire on food intake and other lifestyle factors. Researchers followed them from 1998 to the date of heart failure diagnosis, death, or the end of the study in 2010.
After almost 12 years of follow-up, researchers found that heart failure was diagnosed in 2,891 men and 266 died from heart failure. Also, men who ate the most processed red meat (75 grams per day or more) had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure compared to men who ate the least (25 grams per day or less) after adjusting for multiple lifestyle variables. The risk of heart failure or death among those who ate unprocessed red meat didn’t increase.
Results of the study for total red meat consumption are in line with findings from the Physicians’ Health Study, which found that men who ate the highest amount of red meat had a 24 percent higher risk of heart failure incidence compared to those who ate the least.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure, with about half of those who develop heart failure dying within five years of diagnosis.
Processed meats are notorious for containing some specific controversial ingredients, like nitrates. They’re also too high in sodium. For years, conflicting research has been presented on links between processed meats and cancer and elevated blood pressure. So while this new link may not be surprising, the extent of the findings may well be. FoodFacts.com thinks it makes sense for consumers to be more aware of the amount of processed meats they are eating. Some items are more recognizable as processed than others. Pepperoni, salami, sausage and bacon are easy to identify. Some consumers may not realize, however, that the roast beef purchased at the deli counter is actually a processed meat. Let’s stay aware of our consumption to help protect our health.