Don't Bring Home the Bacon: Small Amounts of Meat Raise Death Risk

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It doesn’t take much red meat or processed meat (cured, smoked, or salted meats, like ham, bacon, and salami) to put you at risk for heart disease and death from any medical cause, suggests a study from Loma Linda University in California, published in the journal Nutrients. While earlier research has established a clear link between eating a lot of red or processed meats to health problems, the new research compared the risks associated with eating little meat to the risk in people who don’t eat red meat at all.

The study involved about 96,000 Seventh-Day Adventists in the United States and Canada. About half of Adventists are vegetarians, and those who do eat meat, eat very little. In food questionnaires filled out by participants, 90 percent of those who ate red meat reported that they ate 2 ounces or less per day.

The researchers found that, over the course of 11 years, about 7,900 of the study participants died — 2,600 of cardiovascular disease and more than 1,800 of cancer. Those who ate the most red or processed meat were at higher risk for heart disease and a higher overall death rate.