A recent study has found that eating too much processed meat, results in earlier deaths. Previous studies have looked into the association between processed meats and cancer, in particular bowel cancer. This new study seems to confirm that there is a moderate risk of

early death, most commonly due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. The link between processed meats and cardiovascular disease is a new finding, although we already know that this link exists for red meat.

The new findings show that if you consume more than 160g of processed meat (equivalent to 2 sausages and a slice of bacon) per day, then the risk of dying is increased by around 44% over an average 13 year follow up period. This is compared to people who eat about 20g a day. It is known that people who eat a lot of processed meat also generally have less healthy lifestyles, but the researchers adjusted for these extra risk factors. In effect this means that if everyone dropped their processed meat consumption to less than 20 g a day, around 3% of premature deaths could have been prevented

It is important however, to put the results into context. Meat also has benefits, as it is a good source of protein, zinc and iron. One also has to distinguish between fresh red meat, like home-made burgers and processed
meat. Processed meat has had something added to it to prolong the shelf life, and it is most likely this process that causes the increased risk of death.

As always the key is a balanced diet, moderate intake of fresh red meat, plenty of fruit and vegetables and to cut down on your intake of processed meats, either by eating less or changing over to turkey or chicken.