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Report links processed meat consumption to premature death

07 March 2013

Processed meat products could lead to an early death, according to a study involving 10 European countries. According to the report, published in BMC Medicine journal, there are links between red and processed meats and heart disease and cancer. The survey reveals that people who eat more than 160g of such products in a day have a 44% greater chance of dying prematurely.

Professor Sabine Rohrmann from the University of Zurich (pictured), who led the research, said that high processed meat consumption could lead to a 72% increased risk of dying from heart disease and an 11% increased risk of dying from cancer.

“Overall, we estimate that 3% of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20g of processed meat per day," she warned. 

In general, diets high in processed meat were linked to unhealthy lifestyles - men and women who ate the most processed meat ate the fewest fruits and vegetables, and were more likely to smoke.

The researchers adjusted the data to take account of these and other factors that might have influenced the results.

However, eating small amounts of red meat appeared to be beneficial - with authors pointing out that part from harmful saturated fat and cholesterol, it contains essential nutrients and minerals that might be missing from a vegetarian diet.

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