Your love for bacon is about to break your heart. Bacon, hot dogs, and deli meat may be delicious, but these cured and processed meats are also loaded with additives that are bad for your heart. A recent study suggests that consuming processed meats is associated with a greatly increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).
The study, appearing in the journal Circulation, reviewed published results of 20 studies involving meat consumption in healthy adults. Combined, the studies involved over 1 million adults. And while consumption of red meat was not associated with increased rates of heart disease, each 1.75 oz (50g) increase in daily processed meat consumption was associated with a 42% greater risk of developing heart disease.
Processed meats are defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or adding additional chemicals to extend a meat’s shelf life. They include meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and other deli meats, whose additives are believed to account for the link to heart disease. In fact, on average they contain four times more sodium and 50 percent more preservatives than unprocessed meats. The 50-gram daily serving of processed meat associated with greater heart disease risk in this study equals one to two slices of deli meat or one hot dog.
Because the study compared the consumption of processed meat with the consumption of unprocessed red meat (beef, lamb, and pork), and red meat was not linked to increased heart disease risk, researchers attributed the negative health effects of processed meats to its added salt and chemicals. Increased dietary sodium is known to be associated with cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, and fatty cured meats can also lead to high cholesterol, clogging arteries and leading to more cardiovascular problems.
Of course, the American Meat Institute does not support the study’s findings, saying that one study should not transform our eating habits. Its worth noting, however, that this single study actually pools the results from twenty previous studies, lending strength to its findings. Still, the study’s authors do not draw a definitive conclusion, but do recommend more research on the effects of processed meats on heart health.