Salt and preservatives may be the culprits, researchers suggest,,
FRIDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Conventional wisdom has dictated that fat from red meat is a risk factor for heart disease, but a new analysis from Harvard researchers finds it's eating processed meat -- not unprocessed red meat -- that increases the risk for heart disease and even diabetes.
The term "processed meat" refers to any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting or with the addition of chemical preservatives. The researchers defined "red meat" as unprocessed meats such as beef, hamburger, lamb and pork.
"To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should avoid eating too much processed meats -- for example, hot dogs, bacon, sausage or processed deli meats," said lead researcher Renata Micha, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Based on our findings, eating up to one serving per week would be associated with relatively small risk."
Micha was scheduled to present the finding Friday at an American Heart Association conference on cardiovascular disease in San Francisco.
For the study, Micha's team analyzed data from 20 studies that included more than 1.2 million participants. Among them, 23,889 had coronary heart disease, 2,280 had had a stroke and 10,797 had diabetes.
The researchers found that people who ate unprocessed red meat did not significantly increase their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes. However, eating processed meat was linked to an increased risk for the two conditions.
In fact, for every 50-gram (1.8-ounce) serving, the risk for heart disease jumped 42 percent and the risk for diabetes increased 19 percent.
Though neither unprocessed red meat nor processed meats were linked to an increased risk for stroke, the researchers pointed out that just three studies looked at the connection between eating meat and stroke, so the data was insuffi
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