Eating Processed Meat and Red Meat Significantly Raises Risk of Death (Study)

A major new study may put the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, of the “bacon with everything” food craze. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined data from more than 110,000 people and found that eating as little as two pieces of bacon or one hot dog a day upped their mortality rate by 20% over a 20-year period. A small, three-ounce serving of red meat a day (about the size of a deck of cards) increased mortality by 13%.

Consuming processed meat has long been linked to higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Dr. An Pan, lead author of the study, told the LA Times that before they crunched the numbers, his team of researchers assumed that only processed meat posed significant health risks. They were surprised by the final results: “Any red meat you eat contributes to the risk,” said Pan.

The good news? The team found that swapping poultry or vegetarian protein options for processed or red meat made a big difference in outcomes. Eating a serving of nuts instead of red meat was associated with a 19% lower risk of mortality. Choosing poultry over red meat was linked with a 14% lower risk of dying.

“This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death,” said senior researcher Frank Hu, PhD, in a statement. “On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality.”

Although Pan says that no amount of processed meat or red meat is good for you, he suggests that, “If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week.” He told the Times he eats two to three servings of red meat a week and avoids all processed meat.

By Sarah B. Weir

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