New Study Links Daily Consumption of Processed Red Meat to Heart Failure

Regular consumption of processed red meat, even in moderate levels, can increase the risk of heart failure in men, a new study from Sweden says.

Different processes involved in the making of ham, salami, sausage, bacon and hot dogs including smoking, curing, salting and adding preservatives may be playing a huge role in this occurrence, according to researcher Alicja Wolk and colleagues.

“Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk,” senior author of the study Wolk, professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said in a news release. “Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium.”

The study looked at 37,035 men aged between 45 and 79 years enrolled in The Cohort of Swedish Men study.

None of the participants had any history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease or cancer. Researchers collected lifestyle and dietary habits of the men through questionnaires.  The 96-item questionnaire on diet measured processed meat intake mainly liver pate, blood puddings, sausages, and cold cuts and unprocessed meat including covered pork, beef or veal.

During the 12-years-follow-up of the study, nearly 2,891 men had heart failure and 266 died from it.

Researchers found a 28 percent increased risk of heart failure associated with eating 75 grams of processed red meat everyday compared to eating just 25 grams daily or less. People who ate the most had two-fold greater risk of death from heart failure and the risk increased by eight percent for each 50 gram additional daily intake.

Researchers urged men to reduce consumption of processed meat to avoid any risk.

“To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less,” study lead author Dr Joanna Kaluza, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, said. “Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings of fish.”

The study was publshed in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

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