Processed Meat Causes 1 in 30 Early Deaths

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A new study, involving half a million participants from across Europe, shows that eating processed meats appears to increase the risk of dying young.

The research followed people from 10 European countries for nearly 13 years on average. Its findings suggest that eating processed meat—like bacon, hot dogs, salami and all those other wonderful things—is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths.

During the study 1 in 17 people died, but those who ate more than 5 ounces of processed meat every day—that's like eating two sausage and a slice of bacon—were 44 percent more likely to die over the course of 12 years than someone who only ate 0.8 ounces. They explain that the figures amount to 1 in 30 early deaths being a result of eating processed meat. Prof Sabine Rohrmann, from the University of Zurich, told the BBC:

"High meat consumption, especially processed meat, is associated with a less healthy lifestyle. But after adjusting for smoking, obesity and other confounders we think there is a risk of eating processed meat. Stopping smoking is more important than cutting meat, but I would recommend people reduce their meat intake."


Interestingly, the study didn't find a strong link between fresh red meat intake and risk of death. So it's worth noting that this isn't an issue of food quality—expensive bacon is just as bad for you as cheap bacon—and applies only to food which is processed in some way, to extend its shelf life, or to change its taste, or to make it more palatable. Sadly, that means the likes of hot dogs, bacon, salami, chorizo, pastrami.... Sigh.

The researchers believe that it's probably the salt and chemicals used to preserve meat that causes health risk—though they're not entirely sure. But the overall take home message? The researchers recommend you eat no more than 0.8 ounces of processed meat a day. That's a single, small piece of bacon; eat it wisely. [BMC via BBC]


Image by Matt under Creative Commons license