Your Risk of Heart Disease Increases When You Eat Red and Processed Meats

In case you needed more incentive to stop eating meat, a new study from the University of Oxford has been published showing that for every 50 grams  (1.75 ounces) of processed meat like bacon, ham, or sausage that you eat per day, your risk of heart disease increases by 18%; for every 1.75 ounces of beef, lamb, or pork that you eat daily, the risk increases by 9% .  Consider the fact that most people who eat meat for dinner will usually consume much more than 1.75 ounces.  A recommend serving size is 3 ounces, but a typical serving can easily be 2 – 4 times bigger, so it’s easy to see how the heart disease risk can also increase dramatically.

The results came from a mega review of 13 studies involving over 1.4 million people who were tracked for up to 30 years.  It is understood that high intakes of saturated fat such as that from red meat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, and excess salt consumption from sources like processed meats raises blood pressure.  Both of these are well-established risk factors for coronary heart disease.  This study found no link between heart disease and eating poultry, like chicken or turkey, which are also much lower in saturated fat.

Besides the links of red and processed meats to heart disease, earlier research from the same team found that they also led to an increased risk of bowel cancer.  Additionally, they point out that “…meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and we need to reduce meat production and thereby meat consumption to benefit the environment.”

The researchers suggest eating meat no more than once a week or eliminating it altogether.  This is in line with a host of other studies that have shown that plant-based or plant-forward diets like the Mediterranean diet are the best for reducing the risk of heart disease.  The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, herbs, and spices as well as extra-virgin olive oil as the primary source of added fat.  This way of eating is also connected to a lowered risk of other chronic diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, while also leading to longer life.

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