Processed meats increase risk of heart disease

Just two rashers of bacon a day can dramatically increase a person's risk of heart disease, according to new research.

They are among the country’s favourite sandwich fillings and do wonders for hangovers, but processed meats like bacon, ham and sausage can dramatically increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

New research by the Harvard School of Public Health in the US discovered that people have a 42% increased risk of heart disease and 19% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes for each daily serving of processed meat they eat.

A serving of 50g is the rough equivalent of two rashers of bacon or one sausage.

In stark contrast to this, the same team of researchers found that there is no such risk from eating even twice as much unprocessed meat, such as beef, lamb or pork.

Processed meat is defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting.

Given the similar quantities of cholesterol and saturated fat in processed and unprocessed meat, researchers believe the difference may be explained by the salt and preservatives added to the former.

Salt increased blood pressure in some people – a key risk factor to heart disease.

Writing online in the journal Circulation, the authors said: ‘Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and mellitus (Type 2).

‘Processed meats contained, on average, four times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives.

‘This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.

‘These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations.’

If you like eating meat, go for lean cuts and aim to cook from scratch using healthier cooking methods like grilling or baking.

For extra flavour, use fresh or dried herbs, spices and chilli instead of salt.

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