Processed meats cut life expectancy


The recent meat scandal, in which undisclosed meats such as donkey and water buffalo were found in local products, has consumers second-guessing buying processed meats. Now another report gives you even more food for thought. A scientific study of nearly 450 000 people from 10 European countries over a period of almost 13 years found that eating too much processed meat shaves years off your life expectancy.  “The results of our analyses suggest that men and women with a high consumption of processed meat are at increased risk of early death, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases but also to cancer,” states the report by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.  Researchers found that those who ate the most processed meats – more than 160 g a day -- risked dying earlier by 44 per cent compared to those who ate only 20 g. 

While the study could establish a link between too much processed meat and a drop in life expectancy, they still need to establish why -- but they have their suspicions.

“We know of some potential mechanisms that probably contribute,” says study author Sabine Rohrmann. “Processed meats are rich in saturated fat and cholesterol, which may be the link with coronary heart disease.” These products also contain nitrates and high iron levels, which may lead to an increased risk of cancer, she added.

The report was published in the BMC Medicine journal.

- Petro-Anne Vlok


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