May 17, 2010
Only Processed Meat Boosts Diabetes And Heart Disease?

Don't blame it on the fat. Diane Keaton in Sleeper was right after all: "Deep fat".

Boston, MA In a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb. This work is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the worldwide evidence for how eating unprocessed red meat and processed meat relates to risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

"Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes," said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study. "Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats."

Hot dogs and deli meats are the culprits. What the world needs: healthy deli meats.

The results showed that, on average, each 50 gram (1.8 oz) daily serving of processed meat (about 1-2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes. In contrast, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. Too few studies evaluated the relationship between eating meat and risk of stroke to enable the researchers to draw any conclusions.

Nitrates or salt or both could be the culprits.

"When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives," said Micha. "This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats."

Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure, a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects which could increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Excited? Gonna make a hamburger to celebrate? Beware of the sodium in ketchup. Oh, and beware the high fructose corn syrup in the ketchup too.

Update: What else to avoid? City air pollution raises blood pressure. So a hot dog in a city baseball park is much worse than venison out in the country.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 May 17 08:16 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Mthson said at May 17, 2010 10:37 PM:

Interesting study.

Organic ketchup doesn't have high fructose corn syrup, and tastes much better. Some brands don't even contain sugar.

Amazon now lets you subscribe to products so it ships them to you on a regular schedule, with free shipping and 15% off. They carry many brands of organic ketchup.

Brett Bellmore said at May 18, 2010 3:39 AM:

Of course, whether or not salt actually has any negative effect on you is very much an individual thing; Most people need not worry at all about consuming excess salt. I wonder if that's the case for nitrates, as well?

Tom Bri said at May 18, 2010 2:49 PM:

The sodium nitrite is required by the government, to prevent disease. Typical.

Randall Parker said at May 18, 2010 5:35 PM:


Good point about the salt. We'll have genetic tests pretty soon to tell us who needs to avoid salt.

Tom Bri,

Really? One can, if one looks at a lot of labels, find prepared meats that do not have nitrite or nitrate in them according to their labels. But I just went googling and found the claim that some hot dog makers use celery juice as a source of nitrates so that they can avoid putting nitrates on the label. Still there but not labeled as such. I gave up hot dogs because even the ones not labeled as containing nitrates and nitrites didn't make me feel as healthy as unprocessed meats.

In fact, Applegate Farms admit they do this with celery:

Applegate Farms does not add sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate to our meat products in order to cure them. Instead, we rely on the naturally occurring nitrites derived from celery juice and sea salt. Using salt to preserve meat is a technique that was discovered by the ancient Greeks as early as 850 BC!

Consumer Reports also found considerable nitrates and nitrites in supposedly natural hot dogs.

So apparently hard to avoid. Anyone know of hot dogs that really do not contain nitrates and nitrites?

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright