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The study included 448,568 men and women living in ten European countries. The participants were 35 to 69 years old, were free of cancer, and had not had a stroke or heart attack upon enrollment in the study. They filled out health, lifestyle, and diet questionnaires and were monitored for an average of 12.7 years.
The researchers grouped the participants according to how much meat they ate, including red meat, (beef, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat), white meat (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and rabbit), and processed meat (ham, bacon, sausage, prepared minced meat, and all other processed products from any meat source). Comparing the rates of medical events in each of the groups during the study, they found the following:
“The results of our analyses suggest that men and women with a high consumption of processed meat are at increased risk of early death, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases but also to cancer,” the study’s authors said. “In this population, reduction of processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams [0.7 ounce] per day would prevent more than 3% of all deaths.”
Several previous studies done in the US also found that eating processed meat was linked to earlier death, but in those studies the harmful effect of eating red meat was stronger than in the current study.
When it comes to choosing meat, there are lots of options. Here are some ways to keep processed meat out of your diet:
(BMC Med 2013;11: doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-63)