Processed meat, not red meat per se, linked to CHD (heart disease), diabetes

Good news for the summer grilling season! And for year round. Hamburgers and steaks are okay, but you might want to steer clear of hot dogs and brats.

The first study to systematically separate out the effects of red unprocessed meat from processed-meat products has shown that eating the former is not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or diabetes [1].

But eating 50 g of processed meat per day—the equivalent of one typical hot dog in the US, or two slices of deli meat—was associated with a 42% higher risk of CHD and a 19% increased risk of diabetes, say Dr Renata Micha (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA) and colleagues in their paper published online May 17, 2010 in Circulation.

"This paper represents very important work," says Dr Nathan Wong (University of California, Irvine), president of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, who was not involved with this study.

"The substantial increase in risk of both heart disease and diabetes associated with processed meats, while not surprising, should reinforce the message that these foods, which are particularly high in sodium, other additives, and fat, are potentially harmful and should be minimized or avoided," he told heartwire.


It makes sense when you think about it. People have eaten red meat for eons; sometimes more than we do. Thousands of years of living with something usually brings adaptation.

We haven't had thousands of years of exposure to high levels of sodium, nitrites, red dye, "liquid smoke" and the sorts of things that are in highly processed meats.

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