Processed Meat Is Bad for Your Health, Study Finds

processed meat, meatBefore you reach for that lunch meat to make a sandwich, keep reading. A study by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that high processed meat consumption had an 18 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality. Published in BMC Medicine, the study analyzed data of over 500,000 men and women from 10 European countries ages 35 to 69 years old. A total of 3.3 percent of deaths could be prevented if all participants ate less than 20 grams a day of processed meat, according to the study.

The researchers found that the risk of cardiovascular death increased by over 70 percent for those who ate over 160 grams a day of processed meat, compared to those who ate 10 to 19.9 grams a day. The risk of cancer deaths was 43 percent higher for those who consumed the most processed meats. The study concluded that the "results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer."

"Risks of dying earlier from cancer and cardiovascular disease also increased with the amount of processed meat eaten," said Sabine Rohrmann, who led the study.

Reduce your meat intake to help yourself and the environment

There is an interesting bit of information contained in the background portion of the study: Meat consumption increased since World War II, mostly in the western world, but is increasing in developing countries, including China. That amount of meat consumption is not only unhealthy, but is bad for the environment. A UN Environment Program (UNEP) study published last month suggested that people in developed countries should cut their meat intake by half to avoid environmental damage.

The UNEP warned: "Unless action is taken, increases in pollution and per capita consumption of energy and animal products will exacerbate nutrient losses, pollution levels and land degradation, further threatening the quality of our water, air and soils, affecting climate and biodiversity."

A 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that global meat production will more than double in 2050. Livestock production contributes to climate change, the report details. Livestock accounts for nine percent of carbon dioxide derived from human-related activities. It also accounts for 65 percent of human-induced nitrous oxide, which has a warming potential 296 times greater than carbon, and 37 percent of all human-induced methane which has a warming potential 23 times greater than carbon.

There is something you can begin to do to not only reduce your intake of processed meat, but of meat in general. Take the Meatless Monday pledge, and pledge to go meatless on Mondays. Your body and the environment will thank you.

Photo: USDAgov

By Andrea Donsky| March 11, 2013
Categories:  Eat
Keywords:  Food and Nutrition

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at See my full bio here.

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