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Eating Processed Meat Associated with Early Death Risk

Mar 07, 2013 02:18 AM EST

Eating processed meat can up the risk of early death, says a new study based on half a million men and women from Europe.

The present study, based on a large population, shows that eating processed meat in higher quantities can adversely affect health. The study even accounted for other factors that may have had an impact on the results, like smoking and drinking. And although these factors did matter in the study findings, researchers found a direct association between processed meat consumption and increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Previous research from Circulation had found that processed meat, and not red meat, is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes type-2. Red and processed meat has been linked with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer. Another study conducted in Uruguay had found that processed meat intake could increase the risk of many types of cancers.

Researchers obtained data from the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), in which almost half a million people from 23 European countries had participated. Study results showed that people who had higher levels of meat consumption also had an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, men who ate more meat also tended to have higher intakes of alcohol.

Although eating red meat can benefit health, eating huge quantities of red processed meat can increase a person's risk of early death, researchers found. The risk remained even after researchers accounted for other factors. Generally, people who eat more vegetables and fruits also have other healthy habits like lower levels of smoking and drinking.

"Risks of dying earlier from cancer and cardiovascular disease also increased with the amount of processed meat eaten. Overall, we estimate that 3% of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20g processed meat per day," said professor Sabine Rohrmann, from the University of Zurich who is the lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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