A study from the University of Oxford finds that consuming processed meat, even in moderation, can increase the risk of heart disease by up to a fifth.
Experts from the Nuffield Department of Population Health in Oxford have claimed that due to the high salt and saturated fat content in processed meats, eating 50g per day of meats like bacon, ham and sausages increases the risk heart disease by 18%.
To reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, researchers recommend that people reduce their consumption of red and processed meat by three-quarters, or go without it altogether.
Read also | Study claiming smokers less vulnerable to COVID-19 retracts as perpetrators are linked to tobacco industry
In contrast, no link has been found between heart disease and poultry such as chicken or turkey which are lower in saturated fat, while the risk of heart disease drops to 9% for unprocessed red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork.
Despite the lack of a clear explanation, saturated fat is believed to increase the level of unhealthy cholesterol called low density lipoprotein (LDL), while excessive salt intake increases blood pressure. Both substances are found in high amounts in processed meat and are recognized risk factors for coronary heart disease.
While it is an established fact that meat production is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, Anika KnÃ¼ppel, lead co-author of the study, points out that their study shows that reducing the consumption of red and processed meat would benefit individual health as well.
Read also | Plants Help Reduce Toxic Mercury From Environment, Study Finds
She added that there was no consensus on the level of consumption considered safe. Instead, she advised that consumption should be as limited as possible, once a week being the maximum. She called for strengthening public health guidelines so that more people limit their consumption of processed red meat.
Globally, more than nine million people die from coronary heart disease each year. In the UK, one in ten people (or ten percent) die from coronary heart disease. Researchers predict that this could be reduced to 9% if people cut their consumption of red meat by 75% or stop eating it altogether.
Previous work by the same research team has indicated that even moderate consumption of red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer.
To conclusively establish the link between coronary heart disease and red meat consumption, the researchers analyzed all available evidence, including thirteen cohort studies that followed more than 1.4 million people for 30 years. White adults in Europe and the United States were the subjects of the majority of studies.