Processed red meat linked to higher risk of heart failure, death in men

June 12, 2014

Men who eat moderate amounts of processed red meat may have an increased risk of incidence and death from heart failure, according to a study in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

Processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Examples include cold cuts (ham, salami), sausage, bacon and hot dogs.

"Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk," said Alicja Wolk, D.M.Sc., senior author of the study and professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium."

The Cohort of Swedish Men study—the first to examine the effects of processed red meat separately from —included 37,035 men 45-79 years old with no history of heart failure, or cancer. Participants completed a questionnaire on food intake and other lifestyle factors and researchers followed them from 1998 to the date of heart failure diagnosis, death or the end of the study in 2010.

After almost 12 years of follow-up, researchers found:

  • Heart failure was diagnosed in 2,891 men and 266 died from heart failure.
  • Men who ate the most processed red meat (75 grams per day or more) had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure compared to men who ate the least (25 grams per day or less) after adjusting for multiple lifestyle variables.
  • Men who ate the most processed red meat had more than a 2-fold increased risk of death from heart failure compared to men in the lowest category.
  • For each 50 gram (e.g. 1-2 slices of ham) increase in daily consumption of processed meat, the risk of heart failure incidence increased by 8 percent and the risk of death from heart failure by 38 percent.
  • The risk of heart failure or death among those who ate unprocessed red meat didn't increase.

At the beginning of the study, participants completed a 96-item questionnaire about their diet. Processed meat questions focused on consumption of sausages, cold cuts (ham/salami), blood pudding/sausages and liver pate over the last year. Unprocessed meat questions covered pork and beef/veal, including hamburger or ground-minced meat.

Results of the study for total red meat consumption are consistent with findings from the Physicians' Health Study, in which men who ate the most total red meat had a 24 percent higher risk of heart failure incidence compared to those who ate the least.

"To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less," said Joanna Kaluza, Ph.D., study lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland. "Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings of fish."

Researchers said they expect to find similar associations in a current study conducted with women.

Almost 6 million Americans have heart failure and about 50 percent die within five years of diagnosis. The healthcare costs and loss of productivity due to are an estimated $34 billion each year, researchers said.

The American Heart Association recommends that people eat a dietary pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts while limiting and sugary foods and beverages. For people who eat meat, choose lean meats and poultry without skin and eat fish at least twice a week – preferably fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, and herring.

Explore further: Estimated risk of breast cancer increases as red meat intake increases

Related Stories

Estimated risk of breast cancer increases as red meat intake increases

June 10, 2014
Higher red meat intake in early adulthood might be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and women who eat more legumes—such as peas, beans and lentils—poultry, nuts and fish might be at lower risk in later ...

More red meat consumption appears to be associated with increased risk of death

March 12, 2012
Eating more red meat appears to be associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, but substituting other foods including fish and poultry for red meat is associated ...

Eating red and processed meat—what do scientists say

March 6, 2014
Recent reports warn about a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of developing cancer in the gut. These reports have resulted in new nutritional recommendations that advise people to limit their intake ...

Processed meat may increase pancreatic cancer risk

January 13, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Eating too much processed meat may increases the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Diet higher in protein may be linked to lower risk of stroke

June 11, 2014
People with diets higher in protein, especially from fish, may be less likely to have a stroke than those with diets lower in protein, according to a meta-analysis published in the June 11, 2014, online issue of Neurology, ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vietvet
not rated yet Jun 12, 2014
I can't speak to heart failure but eliminating processed meat and substituting fish and chicken for red meat saw my blood pressure drop from and average of 145/95 to 102/65.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.