Consumption of bacon, ham and sausages, and lamb, beef and pork, has been shown in research to increase the risk of heart disease, while chicken and turkey consumption poses no increased risk.
Researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University have conducted the largest ever study (1) on the subject – a review of 13 studies featuring over 1.4 million people. All participants had completed food diaries, and their heart health was followed for up to 30 years.
The findings showed:
- Each 50 g/day higher intake of processed meat (e.g. bacon, ham, and sausages) increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 18%.
- Each 50 g/day higher intake of unprocessed red meat (such as beef, lamb and pork) increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 9%.
- There was no clear link between eating poultry (such as chicken and turkey) and an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
It is most likely that these meats, with their higher saturated fat content, increase levels of harmful Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) in the body, a factor known to link to higher heart disease risk. The higher salt content in the processed meats may also be a factor as it is known to increase blood pressure.
Victoria Taylor, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “This review supports existing recommendations to reduce consumption of red and processed meat to help lower our risk, Consider your diet as a whole to get the balance right. The Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and includes only small amounts of red and processed meat, focusing more on plant-based protein such as lentils, nuts and seeds, and fish as well as including plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.”
- Oxford University, News and Events, 21 July, 2021 https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-07-21-red-and-processed-meat-linked-increased-risk-heart-disease-oxford-study-shows