Skip Processed Meat on Father’s Day; Don’t Increase
Dad’s Risk of Heart Failure
Researchers recommend avoiding processed red meat and
limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings a
week or less.
14, 2014 – Processed red meat may not be the best choice to serve on
Father’s Day. Older men who ate the most processed red meat over a
period of almost 12 years had more than a 2-fold increased risk of death
from heart failure compared to men who consumed the least in the study.
The new study also found that men who eat only
moderate amounts may have an increased risk of incidence and death from
heart failure, according to a study in Circulation:Heart Failure,
an American Heart Association journal.
Processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing,
salting or adding preservatives. Examples include cold cuts (ham,
salami), sausage, bacon and hot dogs.
“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,” said Alicja Wolk,
D.M.Sc., senior author of the study and professor in the Division of
Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine,
Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
“Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and
usually has a lower amount of sodium.”
The Cohort of Swedish Men study is the first to
examine the effects of processed red meat separately from unprocessed
red meat. It included 37,035 men 45-79 years old with no history of
heart failure, ischemic heart disease or cancer.
Participants completed a questionnaire on food
intake and other lifestyle factors and researchers followed them from
1998 to the date of heart failure diagnosis, death or the end of the
study in 2010.
After almost 12 years of follow-up, researchers
• Heart failure was diagnosed in 2,891 men and
266 died from heart failure.
• Men who ate the most processed red meat (75
grams per day or more) had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure
compared to men who ate the least (25 grams per day or less) after
adjusting for multiple lifestyle variables.
• Men who ate the most processed red meat had
more than a 2-fold increased risk of death from heart failure compared
to men in the lowest category.
• For each 50 gram (e.g. 1-2 slices of ham)
increase in daily consumption of processed meat, the risk of heart
failure incidence increased by 8 percent and the risk of death from
heart failure by 38 percent.
• The risk of heart failure or death among those
who ate unprocessed red meat didn’t increase.
At the beginning of the study, participants
completed a 96-item questionnaire about their diet. Processed meat
questions focused on consumption of sausages, cold cuts (ham/salami),
blood pudding/sausages and liver pate over the last year. Unprocessed
meat questions covered pork and beef/veal, including hamburger or
Results of the study for total red meat consumption
are consistent with findings from the Physicians’ Health Study, in which
men who ate the most total red meat had a 24 percent higher risk of
heart failure incidence compared to those who ate the least.
“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,” said Joanna Kaluza, Ph.D., study lead author
and assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw
University of Life Sciences in Poland. “Instead, eat a diet rich in
fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings
Researchers said they expect to find similar
associations in a current study conducted with women.
Almost 6 million Americans have heart failure and
about 50 percent die within five years of diagnosis. The healthcare
costs and loss of productivity due to heart failure are an estimated $34
billion each year, researchers said.
American Heart Association
recommends that people eat a dietary pattern that emphasizes
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish,
and nuts while limiting red meat and sugary foods and beverages.
For people who eat meat, choose lean meats and
poultry without skin and eat fish at least twice a week – preferably
fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, and herring.
Notes: The other co-author is Agneta Akesson, Ph.D.
The Swedish Research Council/Medicine and the Swedish Research
Council/Infrastructure funded the study.
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