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Eating too much processed meat meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavour it by salting, curing, fermenting, smoking or adding chemical preservatives is not good for health. Studies have linked consumption of processed meat (bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, canned meat, or lunch meat) to increased risk of various health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, dementia and some forms of cancer. Now, a global study including over one lakh participants from 21 countries has also ratified the link between eating processed meat and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. However, it did not find the same link with unprocessed red meat or poultry.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study was launched in 2003. For the study, the researchers tracked the diets and health outcomes of 134,297 people from 21 countries spanning five continents for almost a decade. Participants who consumed 150 grams or more of processed meat a week had a 46 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 51 per cent higher risk of death than those who ate no processed meat. Based on these findings, the study's authors encouraged people on limiting the intake of processed meat.
However, the researchers found that consumption of non-processed meats in moderate levels had a neutral effect on health. After reviewing the available data, Mahshid Dehghan, investigator for the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, said that "consuming a modest amount of unprocessed meat as part of a healthy dietary pattern is unlikely to be harmful."
Recently, a large-scale study by scientists from the University of Leeds had linked processed meat consumption to increased risk of developing dementia - a health condition that causes loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities. It is estimated to affect 5-8 per cent of over 60s worldwide. According to their study results, consumption of a 25g serving of processed meat a day, the equivalent to one rasher of bacon, was associated with a 44 per cent increased risk of developing dementia.
However, they found eating some unprocessed red meat, such as beef, pork or veal, to be protective against the disease. People who consumed 50g of unprocessed red meat a day were 19 per cent less likely to develop dementia. The study results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last month.
Processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts are classified by the World Health Organization as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer). Research has also shown that eating processed meats can increase your chances for stomach and colorectal cancer. Eating 50 grams of processed meat (about one hot dog or two slices of ham) daily raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 16 percent, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research.
The Institute also recommends limiting consumption of fresh red meat (beef, pork and lamb) to 12 18 ounces or less per week. You need not have to avoid eating red meat completely. Meat can also provide essential nutrients like protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Having said so, meat is not an essential part of a healthy diet noted the American Institute of Cancer Research.
(With inputs from ScienceDaily)
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