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Processed meat linked to heart disease and cancer

Bacon, ham, sausages and other processed meats increase the risk of premature death from conditions such as cancer and heart disease, a Europe-wide study of nearly half a million people has found.

Posted : 7 March 2013

The study, which looked at 448,568 men and women, found that those who ate a lot of processed meat were 44% more likely to die prematurely than those who consumed small amounts.

The study was carried out over the course of 13 years, on average, in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The authors, led by Professor Sabine Rohrmann from the University of Zurich, estimated that 3.3% of deaths could have been prevented if people had consumed less than 20g of processed meat per day (the equivalent of one full English breakfast a week). They concluded that there is a “moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer.”

Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London, said: “The key issue is we don’t know what a good diet is, we’ve had dietary guidelines based on a very narrow based idea of what is nutrition.”

This study comes in a long line of studies which point to the benefits of eating less meat.

“For me, this study is another reminder of the need to go for a more sustainable diet,” said Professor Lang.

Read the report

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