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Red meat raises heart disease risk: study


Eating red and processed meat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a large-scale review by scientists.

While red meat such as beef, lamb and pork is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, eating too much is already linked to bowel cancer.

Experts also recommend that people avoid processed meat, such as bacon, ham, some sausages and salami, to cut their risk of cancer.

Now, in the biggest review of all large-scale studies to date, experts have concluded that red and processed meat also increases the risk of heart disease.

Researchers from the University of Oxford‘s Nuffield Department of Population Health examined 13 studies on the issue, involving more than 1.4 million people.

All those in the study completed detailed dietary assessments and their health was tracked for up to 30 years.

The results, published in the journal Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutrition, found that for every 50g per day intake of processed meat, the risk of coronary heart disease rose by 18 per cent.

And for every 50g per day intake of unprocessed red meat (such as beef, lamb and pork), the risk of coronary heart disease rose by 9 per cent.

The experts found no clear link between eating poultry and a higher chance of heart issues.

The Oxford researchers suggested their findings could be down to the high saturated fat content of red meat, and how much salt is used in processed meat.

High intakes of saturated fat increase levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while excess salt consumption raises blood pressure.

Both are already well known to contribute to heart disease.

Dr Keren Papier, co-lead author of the study, said: “Red and processed meat have been consistently linked with bowel cancer and our findings suggest an additional role in heart disease.

“Therefore, current recommendations to limit red and processed meat consumption may also assist with the prevention of coronary heart disease.”

Previous research has found an increased risk of cancer for every 25 grams of processed meat a person eats a day, which is just over one rasher of bacon or about one slice of ham.

Victoria Taylor, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “The impact of red and processed meat on our risk of heart disease has been up for debate for decades.

“This review supports existing recommendations to reduce consumption of red and processed meat to help lower our risk.

“This doesn’t mean that you have to give up red and processed meat altogether, a healthy diet isn’t dependent on single foods or nutrients.

“Consider your diet as a whole to get the balance right. The Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and includes only small amounts of red and processed meat, focusing more on plant-based protein such as lentils, nuts and seeds, and fish as well as including plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.”


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