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Processed meat linked to elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes

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Eating processed meat with preservatives like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed meats may increase risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation.

The study led by researchers from Harvard School of Public School showed that each 1.8 oz  or 50 grams per day of processed meat, which is equivalent to one or two slices of deli meats or one hot dog, was associated with a 42 percent increased risk for heart disease and a 19 percent increased risk for diabetes.

Renata Micha and colleagues found the association when they meta-analyzed data from nearly 1600 studies, which were meant to examine the association between meat consumption and risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Meats considered in the study included beef, pork and lamb, but not poultry.  Processed meats were defined as meat preserved by smoking, curing pr salting or using preservatives such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, luncheon or processed deli meats.

However, the researchers were not able to associate consumption of unprocessed meats with risk of heart disease and diabetes.

They speculated that the preservative used in the meat product namely nitric or nitrate salt and or table salt but not meat per se was responsible for the increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Preservatives used in processed meats such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite may be transformed into nitrosamines, which are known to be carcinogenic.  The current study did not mean to reveal how meat affect the cancer risk.

Some previous studies have discovered that drinking a glass of orange juice high in vitamin C may help prevent nitrosamines from being formed in the body after consumption of nitric/nitrtate salt treated meats.

The current study was not a trial meaning that evidence did not suggest a causal relation between meat consumption and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

David Liu

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