Home Food Studies on the Link of Processed Meat to Cardiovascular Diseases and Cancer

Studies on the Link of Processed Meat to Cardiovascular Diseases and Cancer


On February 2020, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the study showing the risks of consuming red meat and processed meat; especially cardiovascular disease (CVD). On the study, the article concluded:


“These findings suggest that, among US adults, higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry, but not fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident CVD, whereas higher intake of processed meat or unprocessed red meat, but not poultry or fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality. These findings have important public health implications and should warrant further investigations.”

Processed meats are the ones that have been preserved by smoking, canning, curing, drying, and salting. Some of the examples include hotdogs, corned beef, sausages, ham, salami, bacon, beef jerky, and all kinds of canned meat products. In many parts across the world, food products like this are widely available and easily accessible to people of any age. Eating high amounts of processed meat, however, has been consistently proven to cause different sorts of chronic diseases, including death.

The study involved nearly 30,000 people. These participants were asked to record their regular diet, including what they ate for the previous year and months. Among the cohort studies that have been chosen are: the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study, CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study, CHS (Cardiovascular Health Study), FHS (Framingham Heart Study), FOS (Framingham Offspring Study), and MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis). People who ate two servings of red meat or processed meat per week “had a 3% to 7% higher risk of CVD which includes heart attack and stroke, and a 3% higher risk of death from all causes”. Aside from that, the study also found that people who ate two servings of poultry per week have a 4% risk of CVD compared to those who don’t.

Meanwhile, on March of this year, another study led by Hamilton scientists confirmed that processed meat is associated with CVD and early death. The link with unprocessed red meat or unprocessed poultry, however, has not observed on these 134, 297 participants from 21 countries. According to a report by www.sciencedaily.com:

“After following the participants for almost a decade, the researchers found consumption of 150 grams or more of processed meat a week was associated with a 46 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 51 per cent higher risk of death than those who ate no processed meat. However, the researchers also found moderate levels of consumption of non-processed meats had a neutral effect on health.”

It was also found that eating more than 700 grams of red or processed meat a week increases may cause bowel cancer. And for every 50 grams of processed meat eaten per day, the risk of developing bowel cancer “goes up 1.18 times”, according to Cancer Council (Australia). Because of these risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats as a “Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer)”. Cancer Council also stated:

“…there are certain chemicals in red and processed meats – both added and naturally occurring – that cause these foods to be carcinogenic. For example, when a chemical in red meat called haem is broken down in the gut, N-nitroso chemicals are formed and these have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel, which can lead to bowel cancer. These same chemicals also form when processed meat is digested. In addition, the nitrite and nitrate preservatives used to preserve processed meat produce these N-nitroso chemicals and can lead to bowel cancer.”

“Therefore, to minimize your risk of cancer, eating no more than 1 serve of processed meat per day or 2 serves 3-4 times per week is really important. If you cut out processed meats altogether or keep them to an absolute minimum, there’s a big chance you reduce your cancer risk”, Cancer Council also added.

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