Now steak does not increase heart disease risk
Eating processed meat such as cured meats such as bacon increases the likelihood of heart disease, while red meat does not seem to be as harmful, a study suggests.
A Harvard University team which looked at studies involving over one million people also found just 50g of processed meat a day also raised the risk of diabetes.
But there was no such risk from eating even twice as much unprocessed meat, such as beef, lamb or pork - even the fattier parts.
This was despite the fact the two forms of meat have a similar fat content.
Writing in the journal Circulation, the researchers speculated that given the similar quantities of cholesterol and saturated fats, the difference may be explained by the salt and preservatives added to processed meats.
This is defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting and includes bacon, sausages, salami and other luncheon meats.
Increased blood pressure is thought to be a key risk factor for heart disease and salt is blamed for high BP. However, studies show that while salt can increase blood pressure in some people, in others it lowers blood pressure, and in the majority of people it doesn't have any effect one way or the other.
The team from Harvard School of Public Health looked at 20 studies involving more than one million participants from 10 countries. On average, each 50g serving of processed meat per day - the equivalent of a sausage or a couple of rashers of bacon - was associated with a 42% higher chance of developing coronary heart disease and a 19% higher risk of diabetes.
"Although cause-and-effect cannot be proven by these types of long-term observational studies, all of these studies adjusted for other risk factors," said Renata Micha, lead author.
"Also, the lifestyle factors associated with eating unprocessed meats and processed meats were similar, but only processed meats were linked to higher risk."
Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: "If you like red meat, this can still be included as part of a balanced heart-healthy diet. That was nice of her. ". . . can still be eaten" . . . What she means is that there was no reason for us not have eaten it in the past; and "sorry we have been misleading you for years". But she isn't likely to say that, now, is she?
Taylor added "Go for lean cuts and aim to cook from scratch using healthier cooking methods like grilling or baking. If you need to add flavour, then try using fresh and dried herbs, spices and chillies instead of salt" But why? We know that fat is NOT the evil it is made out to be and neither is cholesterol. Other papers on this website show that, in fact, fat and cholesterol are actually beneficial. It's carbs that are the evil.
One day the British Heart Foundation may finally get it right.
Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Circulation. 2010 May 17. [Epub ahead of print]
Last updated 19 May 2010