Consumption of red and processed meats like pepperoni and bologna may be associated with a slightly higher risk of heart disease and death, according to a large-scale study.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that eating two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry — but not fish — per week was linked to a 3 to 7 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eating two servings of red meat or processed meat — but not poultry or fish — per week was associated with a 3 per cent higher risk of all causes of death, according to the researchers from Northwestern University, and Cornell University in the US.
“It is a small difference, but it is worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats,” said Norrina Allen, an associate professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer,” Allen said.
Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and premature death at a population level, said Victor Zhong, an assistant professor at Cornell.
The findings come on the heels of a meta-analysis published in November last year that recommended people not reduce the amount of red meat and processed meat they eat, the researchers said.
“Everyone interpreted that it was OK to eat red meat, but I don’t think that is what the science supports,” Allen said.
“Our study shows the link to cardiovascular disease and mortality was robust,” Zhong said.
The study found a positive association between poultry intake and cardiovascular disease.
However, the evidence so far is not sufficient to make a clear recommendation about poultry intake, Zhong said.
The study included 29,682 participants, with mean age of 53.7 years.
Diet data were self-reported by participants, who were asked a long list of what they ate for the previous year or month.
Researchers noted that limitations of the study are participants’ dietary intake was assessed once, and dietary behaviours may have changed over time.
Fried chicken, especially deep fat-fried sources that contribute trans-fatty acids, and fried fish intake have been positively linked to chronic diseases, Zhong said.