Many studies have suggested that
eating red meat can be harmful to your health — increasing the risk of death from cancer or heart
disease — yet new research published this week in the journal Circulation
suggests that the negative health effects may be limited to processed meats.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health sifted through more than
1,600 studies, ultimately identifying 20 that investigated the link between
meat consumption and disease risk in more than 1.2 million people. They found
that, while eating processed meats such as cold cuts, sausage and bacon was
associated with a 42 per cent higher risk of heart disease, they didn’t
identify any increased risk from eating unprocessed beef, pork or lamb.
Study authors say that this is the
first major analysis of international data examining the impact of both
processed and unprocessed meat consumption — and distinguishing between the
impact of the two — on risk for both heart disease and diabetes. According
to the analysis, individuals who regularly consumed processed meats had a 19
per cent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes on average, but again,
researchers noted no elevated risk for the condition among those who ate
unprocessed red meats.
The team of researchers, led by
epidemiologist Renata Micha, defined processed meat as any lamb, beef or pork
(but not chicken) that had been treated or preserved by smoking, salting or addition
of other chemicals. They found that, people who consumed an average of 1.8
ounce serving of processed meat each day — the amount of meat in a hot dog or a
couple slices of deli meat — faced 42 per cent higher risk for developing heart
disease and a 19 per cent higher risk for type 2 diabetes.